Let the mayhem begin!
There's no need for me to explain Karneval to you; I just need to point out that you've known it all along. In Germany, this time of celebration goes by names like "Karneval," "Fasching," and "Fassnet." In America, we know it as "Mardi Gras," that time of year leading up to Ash Wednesday. People celebrate with reckless abandon until the fateful date above, after which people have traditionally begun the austere times of Lent. Karneval , however, is generally celebrated by Catholics and Protestants, as well as by people of other religions.
Germans know a lot about America and its political system.
This is reflected in some of the floats in their parade floats...
So how does it start?
The Carnival season in Germany officially begins on November 11th (11.11). The day is marked by celebrations of all kinds. Of course, people don't celebrate non-stop from Nov. 11th to Ash Wednesday; it is a ceremonial beginning.
Die letzte Woche
The celebrating gathers steam in the final weeks of Carnival season. The Thursday before Ash Wednesday is known as "Weiberfastnacht," or "Women's Carnival." In many cities in Germany, particularly in the Rhineland, women march on City Hall and take power away from the traditional powers that be for the day, albeit in a strictly ceremonial fashion. It is not uncommon to see women carrying scissors with them on this day; it is a time of fun, and wearing a tie implies that the wearer is not having fun. Women come up to men wearing ties and cut them off with the scissors. I'll be buying a lot of ties for this year.
Many cities have their own traditional, ceremonial costumes to mark the occasion.
Rose Monday of the final week is traditionally the big parade day; thousands of floats turn out in western Germany and parade through the cities. For many, it is the climax of Karneval season. "Veilchen Dienstag," or "Fat Tuesday," as we might call it is nonetheless a day for parties for one last hurrah before the austerity of Lent rules the day.
What else do I need to know?
I could go on about Karneval forever,but I'll limit it to the following:
- Karneval is especially big in western Germany, in the Rhineland cities of Cologne and Mainz.
- The celebration is more commonly known as "Fastnacht" or "Fassnet" in southern Germany.
- Many cities also add their own traditions to the holiday.
- You are expected to dress up for the occasion. Many people wear festive costumes, with the emphasis being on bright, happy colors, not the scary, dark colors one might see at Halloween.
- In Cologne, red and white (the city's colors) are very big.
- We will have our own Karneval celebrations the last week before Ash Wednesday. There won't be a parade, but there will be ties, costumes, food, and music.