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Helau!! Alaaf!!

Germans are currently celebrating “Karneval” or “Fasching” as it’s called in the south.  The carneval season, also called the fifth season, actually started on November 11 at 11:11 a.m.  But it does not get really colorful until Fat Thursday or “Weiberfastnacht” on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.

Men better watch out that day! Tradition allows women to cut off the men’s tie. Not wearing a tie? Well, they’d cut off your shoe laces!! But don’t worry, it’s Karneval and all is meant in good humor. Just have another beer and laugh about it.

Throughout that weekend leading up to “Rosenmontag” Germans, often wearing costumes, celebrate in pubs and streets. Rosenmontag, the Monday before Ash Wednesday, is the big day of celebration with the most elaborate parades in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz. 

While parade floats in the U.S. often display images of civic pride and patriotism German floats are likely to make fun of politics and government.  It is not unusual for Germans to mock their own heads of state during Karneval. As a matter of fact, it is almost expected. But no one is safe from the satire, not even politicians in the U.S.

If you’re riding on a float you will probably throw candy, or “Kamelle”, to the crowd. Some of the spectators along the parade route would collect it as it “rained down” with open umbrellas.

Rosenmontag may not be an official German holiday, but many schools and places of work are off that day. Children, dressed in costumes, go door to door, much like Halloween, and collect candy. The German version of Trick or Treat is “Ich bin ein kleiner König. Gib’ mir nicht zu wenig. Gib’ mir nicht zu viel, sonst gibt’s was mit dem Besenstiel.” (now that is a mouthful, huh?)

Ash Wednesday marks the end of Karneval and start of Lent. Watch this video and its catchy song that Germans sing lamenting the end of Karneval season.

Sorry, that this post does not offer any pictures. We did not want to violate any copyrights of other photographers.  But feel free to click this link to see a gallery online.

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Karneval !!!

Dear blog readers!  

This next week is an eventful week in Germany !! The Carneval season has kicked in high gear all over Germany with its parades, masquerades, foolish behaviors and colorful festivities.

Carneval, or Karneval as it’s spelled in German, officially starts on November 11 at 11:11 am when Karneval Comittees start organizing the activities for the “Fifth Season.”  The date and time for the start of Karneval has long-standing historic significance in that the number “11” is one number more than the 10 Commandments and one number less than the 12 Diciples of Christ. During the Middle Ages the number eleven was considered the number of Fools.

But while Karneval officially starts in November no one really notices any activity until the last Thursday before Lent (which was yesterday, Feb. 11).

The first sign of foolishness appears that Thursday, also called “Weiberfastnacht”, or Fat Thursday .  That day is rather hard to explain, all I remember was when we were young girls we’d cut off pieces of boys’ shoe laces and often try to snip off some piece of our teacher’s ties (that never worked, but I recall getting a teacher’s shoe lace once).

If you want to get an idea of Fat Thursday activities, watch this video here.

The next big day is Rosen Montag, which is a day of parades, TV Shows, heavy drinking (surprise here) and more wacky costumes.  Generally, the televised parades feature large, colorful floats that poke fun at politicians.  The candy that gets thrown from these floats is called “Kamelle” and people often try to use the inside of umbrellas to catch them.

Schools are closed on that Monday. The cities with the most activity and biggest parades have traditionally been Mainz (which is Louisville’s sister city), and the Cologne area, which includes city of Düsseldorf.

The carneval greeting in Mainz is Helau and in Cologne is Alaaf.

But it is all over on Ash Wednesday with the start of Lent.

Until then HELAUUUUU, and ALAAAAAF!!

February 12, 2010 Posted by | German, History | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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