Get into the spirit of Carnival

Get into the spirit of Carnival

by Heather Ann Cosimo
Stripes Europe

Masquerades, fancy balls and parades make up the joyous celebrations known as Carnival. Think of Mardi Gras in full swing. As you count down the days to Lent, it’s only natural to desire a feast before fasting. Events vary according to country and region.

In Germany, these pre-Lenten festivities officially commence on November 11th at 11:11 a.m. It is recognized as its own season, and goes by various names: Karneval, Fasching, Fastnacht, Fasnet, Fasteleer or Fastelofvend. Whatever you call it, the Fifth Season is a time to let loose and as the old proverb ensues: Anyone who is not a fool at Carnival, is foolish for the rest of the year.

The climax is Carnival week. For the six days preceding Ash Wednesday, Germans go wild. Thursday before Ash Wednesday is known as Weiberfastnacht, Women’s Carnival Day. Traditionally, a group of women storm City Hall and assume complete control all day. As a symbol of cutting off men’s power, women cut off men’s ties. This may explain the common accessory you may see women carrying around… scissors. Sound advice to all men is to wear an old tie, if one at all. According to tradition, if your tie is cut, the woman will give you a kiss. The weekend erupts into masked balls, concerts and parades for kids, leading up to the main event on Rosenmontag, or Rose Monday. 

More than 1.5 million people swarm the streets of Cologne for the Rosenmontag parade annually, while throngs of viewers watch it televised. A host of other cities, notably Dusseldorf and Mainz, conduct exuberant parades with long standing traditions. A great deal of time and effort goes into constructing the elaborate floats, some representing humorous depictions of political figures from the past and present. Marching bands, horses and giant puppets flood the streets provoking singing, dancing and shouting. Candy and flowers are thrown into the crowd of revelers adorned in costumes, wigs and outrageous make-up. Street parties are rampant and if you’re caught without a costume or at least a wig, you may feel left out. Tuesday extends into a further flurry of activities leading up until midnight, the onset of Lent.

Enjoy Germany’s Fifth Season and celebrate the crazy days of Carnival week:


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