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The Greeks and Romans celebrated cheerful spring festivals in honour of Dionysos and Saturn with wine, women and singing. The ancient Germans celebrated the winter solstice as a homage to the gods and expulsion of the evil winter demons. Later the Christians adopted the heathen customs. The period of fasting (Lent) prior to Easter was heralded in by “Fastnacht” or “Karnival” – carne vale = Farewell to meat!
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