Celebrating Old Womens Day in Germany

Photo courtesy of: entdecke-deutschland.diplo.de
Photo courtesy of: kaiserslauternamerican.com

I was excited when I woke up this morning.   Although I do not consider myself an “old woman”, I was a willing participant for Old Women’s Day which is also the start of the carnival festivities that permeate parts of Germany.   It was going to be a day of Girl Power!

Old Women’s Day (or Altbweiben Fasching in German) dates back to 1824 when the washerwomen  (women who did laundry for a living) in the small town of Beuel got fed up with working while the men began the carnival celebrations (the Thursday before Ash Wednesday) and so they formed the Beuel Women’s Carnival Committee which is still in existence today.  These women were well ahead of their time as they planned ways to revolt against men – the women’s movement was nonexistent at this time.  They forcibly seized control of the town hall and decided to cut off men’s ties and kiss any man they wanted to on this day.    Women traditionally dressed up as witches or old women, adding to the fun.  As men displayed hunting trophies, the women proudly displayed their  trophies – half cut ties!

Photo courtesy of: kaiserslauternamerican.com

So you can see why I was excited.  I decided I was going to bring a pair of scissors to German school and on my way home, wander the streets in search of unsuspecting business men wearing ties and before they knew what was happening “snip” I would be holding half of their tie in my hands.  I liked the idea of doing something so devious in rule laden Germany and this was a perfect way of working on my plan of assimilating into German culture.  As I shared my devious plan with J.P. his eyes grew wide in horror.  “You can’t do that, or you’re going to end up in jail.” he explained.  Now I was really confused, it was Women’s Day after all.  He went on to explain that women are only allowed to do it to colleagues or friends and that doing it to unsuspecting strangers would at best result in a strong scolding by the owner of a now wrecked tie or at worst the police would be called and you would end up defending your tie cutting actions in court.  Ah, yes there were those pesky German rules popping up again and ruining all the fun.

Still, I thought as I walked home from German school, it will be fun to watch other people get in on the action.  Unfortunately it was not to be.  Not only didn’t I see a single man getting his tie cut in half, but I didn’t even see any men with half cut ties.  Perhaps, it was because they all decided to wear turtle necks today, as J.P. had – chickens!  I didn’t even see any unsuspecting men getting kissed.  Old Women’s Day is not nearly as popular in Stuttgart as it is in Cologne and other parts of Germany, but I’m still determined to get in on the fun.  Unfortunately it will have to wait until next year as I have a big German test tomorrow that I  need to study for, but on the other hand this means I have a whole year to meet more German men so surely I will have at least a few victims for next year and start my “trophy” collection.

Have you heard of Old Women’s Day or celebrated it?

For more carnival festivities check out First Impressions of a Carnival Parade in Germany

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25 thoughts on “Celebrating Old Womens Day in Germany”

  1. I am so sad that I will miss Karneval yet again this year – yes, I say Karneval and not Fasching as I am from close to Cologne. And believe me, it’s so much more fun up there anyways 😉 Give it a try and spend your next Weiberfastnacht there. I’m sure you’ll have a blast and get to cut some ties as well. Koelle Alaaf!!

  2. Right on, sisters! Absolutely love this idea and fascinated that it began the way it did with the washerwomen. Wish I was there to cut a few ties. Is that you and J.P. is the 2nd pic? What a good-looking couple!

    I’ll make a toast to the good women of Germany today. Enjoy!

  3. @Sabrina – I would love to go to Karneval in Cologne – maybe next year. It’s interesting to see how different Karneval is in different parts of Germany. My Swabian friends sniff about the Cologne Karneval saying it’s too political, although I’m sure people from Cologne would have something to say about that 🙂

    @Cathy – Me too and so cool that over 100 years later the women’s right tradition has carried over and is now the first day of the major carnival celebrations. Nope, that’s not J.P. and I – just a picture I found on the internet, but I agree, they are a nice looking couple. J.P. wouldn’t let me cut one of his ties. Maybe next year. Love your toast!

  4. Our town of Meerbusch is swarming with Altweiber dressed as old hags. There are no ties left intact and everyone is bloated with beer and doughnuts – what a combination!

    • In high school we started even cutting boy’s shoelaces if they didn’t wear ties 🙂 Their moms weren’t too happy.

  5. I’m here to report that here in Cologne I witnessed no tie cuttings nor maimed ties. No fun. But watching all the drunk puking costumed people made up for it.

  6. lol, that is such a fascinating celebration! Germans surely have their own weird sense of humour, I must say, I do love all their interesting festivals and celebrations! Man, I wish I can visit Germany again soon. I miss that place so much.

  7. @Cathy – I’m coming to Meerbusch next year, sounds like that’s where the action is.

    @Mette – Cool that tie cutting happens at weddings in Denmark, I’ve never heard about tie cutting of any sort until I heard of Old Women’s Day

    @Sabrina – LOL, I love it, I must say you Germans are very creative people :). I’ve noticed the regional competition which I find entertaining. I can see why you’d want to be home for Carnival, I’m enjoying it and it’s just started.

    @Michael – Me too!

    @Jen – Thanks for the report, hard to believe in Cologne, but glad you were entertained by all the drunk people 🙂

    @Sabrina – Awwww, that explains it, especially since I have no office and there’s only one man who works at the German school I attend, and he never wears a tie. Thanks for the tip 🙂

    @Rease – I love silly celebrations too and hadn’t heard of it either until a couple of weeks ago.

    @Julia – You make me laugh, and just think of the interesting blog post that could come out of getting arrested in Germany as well :). Hmmm, maybe I’ll wait until I have my Immigration papers first 🙂

    @Eastgale – Agreed, Germans have such a “serious” reputation, but then so many wacky traditions that are so much fun. Hope you’re able to make it to Carnival the next time you come.

  8. I live in Hamburg and for whatever reason the Northerns have decided not to celebrate Karneval in any way.
    Bah Humbug! I would love to cut off my boss’ tie.

  9. @Riayn – too bad, you’ll have to take your boss on a “business trip” next year to some place where it’s acceptable to cut his tie 🙂

  10. @HappyHomemakerUK – I’d never heard of Old Women’s Day either until a few weeks ago. Interesting that there’s a Mercedes Benz museum in England. I guess a lot of people like cars.

  11. Haha! Yes, I wanted to cut some ties myself…. But on that Thursday I was on a conference all day and after I had visions of myself running around like a madwomen and cutting guys’ ties off without them knowing what hit them (or that it was Weiberfastnacht), security coming to pick me up and/or going to jail and/or losing my job and/or being sent to a workplace violence seminar, I quickly let that idea go again …. 🙂 I don’t think I would have gotten much understanding from the Texans around me. In fact, maybe I would have gotten shot considering how many people have guns here. So, no tie cutting until next year (hopefully in Germany!).

  12. Wow I have never heard of that! That sounds like a really interesting tradition though. If I was living there I would totally wear a tie that day to see what would happen.

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