Six in our class took the S-bahn to Elzach to catch the carnival fever. The train ride itself was a prelude to the festivity to come. The train was packed with passengers who were all in a playful mood, as can be gleaned from the shocking color of their wigs, odd costumes, and painted faces. My hunch that most of these passengers will get off Elzach turned out to be right. We have our version of the Fastnacht in Freiburg, but the one in Elzach is said to be better. I can only agree.
The main attraction of the carnival in Elzach is the parade of the Schuttig. The Schuttig get-up consists of a wooden masks with three big red balls attached on the headdress, while red scale-like garments make up the clothes. To complete the get-up, a Schuttig should have a stick with inflated pigs’ bladders (yes, you read that right) tied on one end. The stick is whipped on to the road, to create a a startling, booming sound.
It is said that Schuttigs make this noise to drive away the winter season. (Even with the bladders’ disgusting smell, I wouldn’t mind whipping around that thing like a madman everywhere and anytime- carnival or no carnival- if it were true.) Be careful though as soon as the parade starts, as these organic balloons may find their way onto your head, when Schuttigs, amidst dancing to the tune of the accompanying band’s music, playfully whack around heads of spectators. I got at least a couple of good pounding myself. I pity two classmates, one from India and another from Iran, who I think experienced something close to a physical assault!
Most of the Schuttig are composed of men, and I observed a few women and children also joining the parade. One old lady from Freiburg whom we met in this small town told us that no two masks are crafted alike, and that one full costume could cost about 2,000 Euros. These masks and costumes are most likely passed on from one generation to the next.
The Fastnacht is tied to a pre-Lenten tradition, which I find as an opposite to the Philippine custom. The religious season is usually associated with school-organized silent reflection, recollections, and retreats.
Even when we were still on our way to Elzach, we already agreed not to watch the Fastnacht next year. We will be joining it ourselves.