Appalachian Mardi Gras
February 21, 2020 6:54 AM   Subscribe

On the Saturday before Lent, the tiny Swiss village of Helvetia, West Virginia celebrates Fasnacht. posted by peeedro (11 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
One Year in Helvetia, West Virginia: West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard spent 2016 documenting Helvetia’s seasonal celebrations to understand how this isolated community draws strength from its land, its history, and its people.
posted by peeedro at 6:55 AM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had a high school teacher named Fasnacht. Never bothered to learn what a fasnacht was until now. Yummy!
Mardi Gras in the north is different.
posted by MtDewd at 7:31 AM on February 21, 2020

I keep wanting to read this as "Helvetica". In that town, they celebrate Fontnacht.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2020 [14 favorites]

I learned about this thanks to Donald Glover's Atlanta (FanFare episode post), except it takes place in Helen, Georgia, which has their own Fasching celebration (Southern High Roads).

1968: The Year We Turned German (Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 AM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Helen is a bit of a tourist trap, but it's also an hour and a half drive from us so we've been a few times. I sent this to my wife saying "this is what Helen wishes it was". (This may not be entirely true.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:20 AM on February 21, 2020

I got to see the continued Fasnacht tradition on a chilly February day at 2 am or so in Basel, Switzerland, where the old-world traditions of demonic atonal flutes and masked monsters march up and down the streets for hours. Real "Midsommarish horror, but with spiced mulled wine and good cheer.
posted by Theiform at 10:07 AM on February 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

damn it, tallmiddleagedgeek, I came to the thread just to make that joke.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:52 AM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had the supreme good fortune of being in Stuttgart, Germany for Fasnet (as it's called there) in 2012. I was in town visiting people, and I had no idea that Fasnet existed much less what it would entail. I was fully unprepared for the level of bananas (are those little kids drinking schnapps??), conviviality (are those people dressed as smurfs and vikings playing full contact body bowling??), mischief (are those people dressed as old timey firemen actually climbing up on a ladder and spraying water into someone's house through an unlocked third floor window??), cringe (is blackface really this popular??), feats of endurance (it's been four days, are people really still awake and partying at 4 am again??) and on and on. I've never met so many people in such a short time, I'll honestly never forget it. It made me fall in love with Stuttgart.

In subsequent years, I've often been in Braunschweig during the same time of year. That city does a very sedate version of Fasnacht by comparison, but it's still cool to see everyone getting dressed up and filling the nighttime up with laughter. There are even televised broadcasts of the celebrations.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:35 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Fasnacht in Basel is very atmospheric, compounded by the fact that it starts in the middle of the night so the sleep deprivation makes it all extra surreal.

Is there a comprehensive list of Fake Bavarian Towns in the US? Leavenworth WA, Frankenmuth MI, Helen GA... this might be my new tourism bucket list.
posted by aiglet at 12:13 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Helvetia is also a cool slowgrunge band from Seattle
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:41 PM on February 21, 2020

The online game, set in West Virginia, Fallout 76 has done a limited-time Fasnacht celebration in-game (I believe it's coming back in the next few weeks). It was how I heard about the festival, so, uh, yay educational video game content?
posted by rmd1023 at 12:45 PM on February 21, 2020

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