every february, just before the start of lent, all across germany "karneval" is celebrated, street carnival of the german kind.
it originated from pagan rites of scaring winter away with sounds and costumes and street parades. these days, it's mostly a reason to get a day off work and get drunk.
in southern germany and switzerland, the event is called "fasnacht", and it's more traditional and firmly rooted in local culture.
people who belong to fasnachts clubs dress up in traditional clothing made out of hundreds of little patches of fabric and very ugly wooden masks. on "rosenmontag" the monday before ash wednesday, they parade through their city, rattling rattles and ringing bells and harrassing on-lookers, often "kidnapping" good looking females in giant nets. it can be fun. or annoying. or absolutely awful, that.
now here's the cool -and very german- part.
as these traditional costumes make it impossible to identify who's underneath them, a little license plate needs to be attached to the costume, stating an abbreviation of the club name and a number.
clubs are obliged to keep track of who's wearing what costume with what license plate when.
so in case of serious misbehavin' of people in strange costumes and ugly wooden masks: just jot down that license plate. and report to the police.
[me, i'm glad that fasnet will be over tomorrow.]