A highlight is watching the carnival in Elztal, where the ancient tradition is still alive. Carnival originated as a tradition of Roman Catholics. The Catholic Church in Rome had been the headquarters of carnival, promoted though some popes, notably Clemens IX and XI, and Benedict XIII. However, the festival goes even further back to Celtic times and is linked to the beginning of spring, and the idea to scare evil spirits away. This is usually done with parades, where the participants wear horrible masks and make loud noises and music.
Nowadays, a carnival parade is a public celebration, combining some elements of parade with street party. Carnival is a holiday period during the two weeks before the traditional Christian lent. The name Carnival comes from the Latin name carne (meat) + vale (good bye), literally saying good by to eating meat. Carneval has its origins in the need to finish up all remaining meat and animal products such as eggs or butter before the fasting season. The celebration of Carnival ends on Ash Wednesday. The festival starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, known in Elztal as Schmutziger Donnerstag. In German, 'schmutzig' means dirty, but the name stems from the local dialect meaning fat as in "Greasy Thursday". The day is also called Women's Carnival (Weiberfastnacht), being the day when women take control - lucky Elztal, only once a year.