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February 18, 2023
Helvetia’s Fasnacht, sometimes described as the Mardi Gras of Appalachia, is a Swiss celebration held near the end of winter. German for “fasting night,” Fasnacht is meant to serve as the grand hurrah before Catholics who are practicing Lent give up fatty foods and other physical comforts until Easter.
Starting in the afternoon, you will be able to join in jam sessions, listen to the sound of community coming together to eat and be merry, or browse through the local shops and mask museum.
In the later part of the evening, a parade featuring large, often frightening, artistic masks travels from the Red Hall to the Community Hall where the costumes are judged, and a square dance begins.
At midnight the effigy of Old Man Winter is cut down from the ceiling of the Community Hall, carried on the shoulders of the celebrants to the bonfire outside, and burned to signal the end of Winter.