GERMANY: Letting Go

Perhaps because Lent is no longer so austere as it used to be, the European Catholic tradition of carnival time —a brief spasm of bacchanalian indulgence that ends abruptly on Ash Wednesday—has virtually died out in Italy, France and even in Southern Germany. Munich's once-orgiastic Fasching, for instance, has dwindled to a single parade and a few tame costume balls. One area where the annual urge to let it all hang out is as strong as ever is the Rhineland with its century-old tradition of blowing off steam as a form of political expression....

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