Get Ready For The Crazed German Carnival Season!
Carnival is a time for partying in Germany! And although it technically begins on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 11:11, the celebrations don’t really ramp up until the Weiberfastnacht (“Fat Thursday”) and the manic mayhem continues right up until the solemn religious events of Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday).
This year, the Crazy Days of Carnival take place from Thursday, March 3th until Tuesday, March 8th, with the peak being on March 7th with the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday).
Most Germans will tell you that if you want to experience the true Carnival spirit, you must go to Cologne. As one of the oldest cities in Germany, Cologne certainly has the longest tradition and the biggest parties of the holiday.
But, don’t despair if you aren’t in the city limits during the “crazy days” of Carnival. There are a handful of other German cities, mostly in the Rhineland, that throw a pretty decent party as well (ex., Mainz, Düsseldorf).
If you’re not a religious person, you might be a bit confused about the fuss surrounding the Carnival season. Just what exactly is it and why do people celebrate?
Well, not that anyone needs an excuse to throw a party, but the excess that comes with Carnival is all a lead up to the forty days of Lent, when Christians usually follow the example of Jesus Christ and give up something they love. To compensate for the month of deprivation, they eat, drink and party to excess in the days that come before.
There are many wonderful traditions that you can see each and every year at Carnival. One of these is the Triumvirate, the Jungfrau, Prinz, and Bauer, that is a virgin, a prince and a farmer. It is the highest honor of the Carnival to be named the Prince. He is the one in charge of the festivities and appears in all the big parades during the week.
You’ll be able to pick him out by the peacock tail crown, purple jacket and a glittery girdle. In his arms, he carries a royal scepter as well as a slapstick. This is a sign of the village fool but also a strong fertility symbol. The farmer is the solemn and serious keeper of the city. He wears the key to the city on his waist. And the “virgin” — who is typically portrayed by a man in drag — is clad in a crown and holds a mirror in her hand.
Arm yourself with the phrase “Kölle Alaaf!” or “Cologne alive!” This is the customary greeting during these crazed days.
Each year, you are certain to see colorful costumes (don’t leave without one!), experience bars that never close and view a fair amount of festive parades.
Again, the culmination comes on Rosenmontag, or Rose Monday, on March 7th this year. The parade on Rose Monday is one for the record books. It boasts a length of six kilometers (3.7 miles), over 10,000 participants, several hundred horses and over a hundred musical bands.
And the party revelers come with their fair share of festive accessories. Over 140 tons of candy, sweets and flowers are brought to the parade and thrown to the crowd, including 700,000 chocolate bars, another 220,000 boxes of chocolate, 300,000 flowers, and thousands of stuffed toys.
So I hope you can collect bags full of sweets, but do “protect” yourself well to not get one of those edgy chocolate bars thrown on your head! ;-)
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