Party like it’s 1399!

Celebrated by pre-Christians as a means of driving out winter and evil spirits and welcoming in the springtime—in part through the role reversal of masters and enslaved people—Karneval was later adopted by the church as a festive period to enjoy food, drink, and revelry before the fasting and penitence of Lent. Today, Karneval retains many of the traditions that began in the Middle Ages. It’s also known as Fasching or Fastnacht, depending on which part of Germany you’re in, and each carries different traditions. The Athenaeum celebration is modeled after Karneval in Köln, or Cologne, sister city to Indianapolis.

We’re kicking off the lead up to the “Crazy Days” with a red & white (and black for those who prefer to wear suits) masked ball this year—join us for our Karneval Maskerade Party on Saturday, January 27 at 7 PM in the Basile Theatre in the Historic Athenaeum with live music and jesters. Be sure to dress to impress with cocktail attire and a mask. Your ticket includes 2 complimentary drinks and German-inspired hors d’oeuvres. Tickets go on sale on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 minutes after the 11th hour, Karneval is a whole season—not just one night.

What exactly is Karneval?

Our society strives to preserve the German traditions of celebrating Karneval, which is known in the U.S. as Mardi Gras. Through Germany, from Bavaria to Bremen, Karneval has many different names and traditions, but the theme of the holiday is consistent: It’s a time to forget about your everyday problems and enjoy life to its fullest. Karneval dates back to festivals celebrated by the Romans and ancient Egyptians. The Roman Catholic Church assimilated these celebrations into the Christian calendar as the last festival before Lent. All major festivities are held in Catholic areas worldwide. In Germany, the oldest surviving records about Karneval, dated March 5, 1341, are found in Köln.


During the Karneval season, Prinz Karneval is the rightful ruler of all and sovereign of joy. By his side are the Jungfrau and Bauer. The Jungfrau symbolizes Köln’s inaccessibility to enemy forces, who never managed to break through the city walls. The Bauer, a peasant, symbolizes the old free city’s ability to defend itself. Together, these three are better known as the Dreigestirn. The Karneval dancers, or Funkenmariechen, date back to the 1700s, when they were members of the military and would dance to entertain the soldiers. A look at Karneval today shows the traditions of centuries ago remain.

Event Details:

Basile Theatre at the Historic Athenaeum
401 E. Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204, USA
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January 27, 2024 at 7 PM

Athenaeum Foundation401 EAST MICHIGAN STREET

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The Athenaeum Foundation preserves a treasured historic landmark that welcomes all to nurture a sound mind and a sound body through arts & culture, wellness and community.

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