Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Michael Ann Williams, Burt Feintuch, Sam Ratcliffe

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The history of pre-Lent celebrations is traced through the presentation, comparison, and evaluation of the main theses of origin held by Shrovetide and Carnival scholars. It is determined that the question whether the festivals are of pagan or Christian origin is not important for the analysis of their present-day significance. Their vitality stems first of all from the general importance of celebration for humans to define themselves in a setting in which they can perform, act, and behave in non-traditional ways that cannot be transferred to everyday life. However, the festivals' uniqueness can be defined through two main characteristics: (I) the establishment of fools' or mock-governments and the ritual dismissal of the local authorities, and (2) the use of elaborate masks and costumes. Masks and costumes not only facilitate new contacts with other, particularly non-masked, members of one's community, no matter to which social level they belong; they also allow people to freely parody and thus criticize their society's political, social, and moral order, without having to suffer consequences. Although considered to be anarchic by their critics, pre-Lent celebrations actually reflect the everyday world, which they need as a background on which to stage their distinct nature. The actors, give up their performance after the reenter their routine lives they often take with them a without special equality, which they may use within interactions. called "fools," willingly festive period and misgivings. However, feeling of democracy and their everyday social interactions. The results of fieldwork done in Southwest Germany (the area of the Swabian -Alemannic Shrovetide) are reflected throughout the study. Forty-nine black-and-white photographs as well as a map give a visual impression of Shrovetide in Germany.


Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology