Fasnacht Celebration Held in Randolph County - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Fasnacht Celebration Held in Randolph County

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Helvetia -

A 150 year old Swiss tradition has been in the culture of Helvetia for more than 40 years. Fasnacht is the Swiss equivalent to Mardi Gras and means fast night.

"It means fast night, as in fasting. It is a pre-Lenten celebration. We pull in a lot of traditions from different areas, but it's focused primarily on Switzerland. We pull in Catholic pre-Lent season events," said Anna Chandler, Helvetia Archives.

Helvetia also brings in Pagan customs; mixed with Mardi Gras. Masks are worn by the visitors to scare off old man winter.

"The theme is to chase old man winter away. Most of them are gruesome, ugly, bloody, whatever. Every once in a while we have someone very beautifully dressed and that's acceptable also," said Eleanor Betler, Helvetia Archives.

The festival starts with an open mic in the Red Hall, followed by a candlelight parade where all the masks are displayed, and finally a square dance where all the masks are judged.

"We judge the funniest, the scariest, the most original. Kids and adults alike, they'll each receive a little award," Chandler said.

At the very end of the night old man winter is burned in hopes that the snow and cold will go with him.

Fasnacht has been in the culture of Helvetia since 1969.

"The Fasnacht celebration started with the big masks, paper mache, and everything at that time. It got to be so much fun that everybody decided to keep it on and it's been going on every year since then," Betler said.

Fasnacht brings people from all over to the small community that's population is less than 50.

"We have people from all over the country that come in. Sometimes we have people from Switzerland and other countries that stop in," Chandler explained.

And with all of those people coming in, it's good for the community.

"It brings in a lot of additional revenue, with people coming in and visiting, visiting the restaurants and the stores. It's one of the things we do to help the community, plus it helps to continue the traditions here," said Chandler.

Helvetia has a website that you can visit to learn more about Fasnacht, or the community.