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Fastnacht Day festivities a perfect fit for Hagerstown

February 13, 2013

I thought maybe, just maybe, I would make it through my entire journalistic career without having to spell the word “Fastnacht.” But apparently this is not to be the case, and I blame social media.

Anyone who tells you that nothing good ever happens in an alley late at night has never been to Hagerstown. Along with thousands of others, I’ve spent the odd late-night hours out in back of Krumpe’s Do-Nut shop waiting for a fresh-fried dozen.

At least I did prior to age 40, at which point staying up past 11 p.m. would wipe me out for three consecutive days.

But, with apologies to the Krumpes, I never bought into the whole Fach ... Fash ... Fastnaught — oh, never mind — craze in the grounds that I don’t do food fads.

Like, remember turduckin? It was several different fowl rolled into one roiling lump of meat product that was popular for about 10 minutes, until people figured out that lacking identifiable appendages, i.e., drumstick, wing, etc., just about anything brown could have been rolled up into the package with no one being the wiser.

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In the 1970s it was astronaut food, or at least food pretending to be astronaut food. I don’t know if Tang still exists, but it rocketed to fame, literally, on America’s manned space program. And I think there was some sort of energy food called Space Stix, and a dozen variations on somewhat edible freeze-dried substances. You knew the shelf life of the actual products would far exceed the shelf life of their popularity.

And then of course there was oat bran, the less said about the better.

So I had just thought the Fatchknot just another one-act food play — you know, a doughnut shaped like a hockey mask.

And then there’s that name — learning to spell it is a commitment that I don’t want to make unless I know it will be of some value years into the future. It’s like learning the name of your daughter’s new boyfriend; unless he’s been around for six months.

But I was wrong about this, and have since found Fitchnut religion. After something’s been around for 60 years, it’s probably time to stop asking questions.

And if social media are the gauge, it appears Foughtnits might be on the verge of a world-wide breakout.

There is, naturally, a Germanic Facebook page dedicated to a Ficknose festival (Die Facebook Plattform rund um das Thema Fastnacht) and several Fastnut groups — all closed, which, judging by their costumes, is probably a good thing.

And everyone was wishing everyone a happy Fooshnox Day on Tuesday, which was virally expanding the number of people “in the loop” about the holiday.

This all makes me think that Hagerstown should be on the cutting edge for once, and come up with our own Fatchnaut festival before some trendy, bandwagon jumping, germanically ethnic wannabe — I’m lookin’ at you, Frederick — beats us to it.

Near as I can tell Fastnacht (I did it!) Day is a cold-weather Mardi Gras. Same insane costumes, masks and demonic behavior. It’s a mix of Christian and pagan rites, in which the evil spirits of the cold winter, represented by people in costume, are chased away for the year — and at the same time it’s viewed as the last big blowout before getting down the serious business of Lent.

In short, no one knows exactly what they’re doing — which fits Hagerstown perfectly.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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