Your Ultimate Guide to Celebrating Carnival in the Black Forest Germany

The Black Forest Carnival or the Swabian-Alemannic Carnival celebrations in Germany are authentic ancient traditions full of wooden masks, witch parades and more.

Thursday 11th February 2021

Tuesday 16th February 2021

Days to start

Don’t forget to follow us @_carnivaland

You don’t need to head to Brazil to experience carnival! Carnival in the Black Forest is renowned for being one of the most fun times of the year. The German’s surely know how to put on one of the biggest parties of the year. Carnival in Germany is the biggest party of the year and is a way bigger party than Halloween or New Years. So head to the Black Forest during carnival!

What is Fasnacht?

black forest carnival

Fastnacht is part of the pre-Lenten carnival season in Germany. Carnival is an old tradition that sweeps across Germany in the period prior to Lent. It is all about having some fun before Lent and it sees a lot of feasting, partying, drinking and just letting loose.

What is carnival in the Black Forest?

In most of Germany carnival or Fastnacht is all about dressing up, partying and drinking but not so during Germany’s Black Forest. The Black Forest Carnival also known as the Swabian–Alemannic carnival or Fastnacht is a little darker and less humorous then the carnival celebrations in the other parts of Germany.

Most carnivals are about getting wild and partying than about respecting tradition, but not in the Black Forest Carnival which is all about reflecting on the simple life of historic times. The Black Forest region keeps alive the local heritage and tradition in an enchanting way.

The Black Forest still has public street parties and parades but they are all about tradition and history. It is about the time of year when the evil winter spirits reign over the region bringing darkness and cold. Carnival in the Black Forest is all about hunting down the bad spirits and expelling them from the area so that Spring can be ushered in.

Where is the Black Forest?

black forest carnival

The Black Forest known as Schwarzwald in German is a wooded mountain range in southwestern Germany. Its name is derived from the dark colour of the numerous pine trees which grow in this region. It is bounded by the Rhine valley in the west and south.

The Black Forest Carnival is held in the regions picturesque villages of the Black Forest where from December to March the carnival season takes over the villages. It is a stunning region and the snow-covered landscapes provide a magical backdrop for a traditional and original carnival celebration.

What is the history of carnival in the Black Forest?

Carnival in Germany dates back to the Middle Ages and its festivities originated from feasting celebrations that occurred at the end of winter, in order to consume peoples perishable food stocks before they would go to waste with the snow melting and warmer temperatures at the end of winter. These celebrations have been documented in central Europe as far back as the 13th century.

When the influence of the Catholic Church spread across Europe the ancient pagan celebrations were given Christian meanings and moved to before Lent.

What are the 2020 carnival dates for carnival in the Black Forest?

black forest carnival

Fasnacht season officially begins on the 6th January and ends on Ash Wednesday. However all the main celebrations and parties are concentrating in the 6-days prior to Lent and begin on Dirty Thursday, which is the Thursday prior to Lent. However the Buurefasnacht carnival in Weil am Rhein and Sulzburg, keeps the party going until then end of the first week of Lent.

The Black Forest Carnivals dates for 2020 begins Thursday 20th February until Tuesday the 25th February 2020.

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How do they celebrate carnival in the Black Forest?

Carnival across Germany generally involves a week of fun celebrations in the final week prior to Lent. In most of Germany the focus is on partying. In the Black Forest, carnival is celebrated differently. Retention of old carnival traditions is very important and lots of effort goes into keeping traditions alive.

Black Forest carnival traditions dates back to their pagan roots. Carnival is all about scaring away the evil winter spirits. Winter is a time when the bad spirits roam the land and they need to be hunted down and scared away so that spring can be ushered in. During the six main days of carnival kids don’t go to school and the adults don’t go to work.

To scare away the winter spirits, during carnival people dress up in traditional carnival costumes. People will wear traditional hand painted carnival costumes and old wooden masks, many of which have been in the family for generations. Usually you will see a lot of people dressed as witches, demons, spirits or scary animals. Some Black Forest towns have over 80,000 people dressed up.

The costumes are usually quite scary and adorned with bells, whips, pig bladder balloons and more. People walk around in groups making lots of noise to ‘scare away the spirits’. There are also processions of devils, witches and a federahannes, which is a dancing fool who makes his way through the towns and villages, entertaining the people.

Restaurants and pubs are open 24/7 and the beer and music never stop flowing. There are many other traditional carnival celebrations that occur day and night including like burnings, parades, fireworks and more.

What are the best Black Forest Carnivals events?

black forest carnival

The Narrensprung in the town of Rottweil is said to be one of the best carnival parades. It occurs on Rose Monday and begins at 8am. It sees a parade of over 4000 dancing fools/jester types who parade through the town wearing traditional carved carnival masks. It also features a traditional devil-like carnival character called Federhannes and the Guller, a man who rides a cockerel.

The village of Waldkirch is famous for its annual Hexensabbat, which is a Witch Parade. It is a popular event that occurs on the Saturday prior to Lent. In the main market square there is a procession of witches, complete with brooms and bonfires. The town’s local mountain is called Kandel which in ancient folklore was thought to be the home of powerful witches.

Schramberg Fastnacht main carnival characters are the hopping Hans and hoorige Katz. They have a unique carnival event called the Da-Bach-Na-Fahrt, which sees the carnival characters hurl down the river in wooden bathtubs.

The oldest and best processions in the Black Forest takes place in the towns and villages of Villingen, Oberndorf and Elzach.

Highly Recommended! – Viareggio Carnival!

We highly recommend if you are already planning on attending carnival, that you extend your trip and visit two of the world’s best carnivals! Unfortunately, most carnivals take place at the same time, in the days prior to Lent. But Viareggio Carnival in Italy occurs not once, but five times in the lead up to Lent! So, it’s one of the only other pre-Lenten carnivals in Europe that you can also visit!

And what is more fun than celebrating carnival once, is celebrating it twice! Viareggio Carnival is one of world’s most renowned carnival celebrations, and rightly so because this Italian town puts on a carnival that is like nothing else in the world! What separates this carnival from the rest, is their awe-inspiring floats! Viareggio Carnival holds the title of having the ‘world’s best carnival floats!’ No other carnival even comes close!

And at Viareggio, carnival is just icing on the cake! Because this carnival takes place in gorgeous Tuscany, one of Italy’s best regions! A region that is famous for its art, architecture, history, culture, picturesque landscapes, great food, great wine and the best of Italian hospitality, that you can enjoy while experiencing the magic of this carnival!

Read more about Viareggio Carnival here.

How to get to the Black Forest?

There is only one airport in the Black Forest Region which is the Baden-Airpark and has a few flights. To get a quote for a flight click here. However the region will be an hour or so drive away from Basel, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Zurich Airport. There are plenty of buses and trains that connect from those cities or just rent a car and drive. Get a quote for a rental car here. To rent a bike or a scooter get a quote here.

Where to stay during the Black Forest Carnival?

There are so many beautiful spots and towns that you can stay in you are spoilt for choice. Baden is one of the more fashionable spa-towns that sits at the bottom of rolling hills and is full of stunning architecture. Bad Wildabad is another picturesque village and popular spa town.

Calw is located in the north of the Black Forest and has a reputation as being one of the Black Forest’s prettiest towns. Other popular options are Baiersbronn, Freiburg, Badische Weinstrasse and Titisee Lake.

If you want to stay close to the carnival action then consider staying in Villingen, Oberndorf, Elzach, Schramberg, Waldkirch or Rottweil. It is worth deciding what you wish to see ahead of time to better plan.

Check out some accommodation deals here.

How to get around during the Black Forest Carnival?

black forest carnival

The Black Forest Region is only 210km long and the best way to explore the region attend different carnival celebrations is to rent a car and have the freedom to drive where you wish. But there are also plenty of regional buses that operate. Get a quote for a rental car here.

What to do and see in the Black forest?

The Black Forest in Germany offers an abundance of natural beauty with beautiful forests, lakes, streams and picturesque towns and villages. There are all kinds of sports and recreational activities that you can do from hiking to cross country skiing. There is an abundance of historic monuments castles, palaces, churches and monasteries.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here. For a longer vacation check out Tour Radar for some cool trips.

Don’t forget to follow us @_carnivaland

Before you go!
We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance! Never travel without coverage! Being protected on your travels gives you an irreplaceable peace of mind. Don’t learn the hard way about the importance of travel insurance. Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads!

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