Karneval, Fasching, Fastnacht

It’s madness, it’s crazy! Let’s get going! “Alaaf – Helau” you chant.

Year after year on the 11.11. at 11.11. o’clock Carnival starts and ends on ‘Aschermittwoch’ (Ash Wednesday). 

Carnival King and Queen

A carnival King and Queen are elected and they reign for one mad carnival period only. Carnival societies practise their speeches “Büttenreden” and prominent politicians are invited to test how long they manage to keep up the smile on their faces, whilst seriously having the piss taken “durch den Kakau ziehen”.

Royal Household

They have their own Royal Household ‘der Hofstaat’, including dance-troops with girls who do high-kicks in super short dresses and will put your attempts at aerobics to shame. It’s a truly royal court* … of fun! 

Fools “Narren und Närinnen” run the show and EVERONE is having a great time partying, dressing up in costume, culminating in a huge carnival spectacle “Der Rosenmontag Umzug”, with Prince, Nave and Virgin “König, Bauer und Jungfrau”. A street procession with humorous effigies of prominent people, often politicians, made of paper Mache. Tons of sweets are thrown into the crowd, who has dressed up in colourful costumes. Mainz and Cologne are the cities where the biggest processions take place. On Shrove Tuesday the last day of carnival madness, no-one holds back, offices, schools and shops shut down early and it’s party time. 

Dressing up

Where did all this come from? It goes back to BC, where winter rituals with fire, scary masks, cymbals and rattles took place to expel evil spirits or drive away winter. Devils, witches, harlequins and folk heroes make a spellbinding display. Witty sketches and dazzling dance routines by the “Tanzmariechen” (girls dance groups) are shown on TV to audiences.

Forgetting everyday worries, laughing is allowed for a while, yet everyone knows this feast of dressing up, fun and silliness lasts only unti “Faschings Dienstag” (Shrove Tuesday).

*Germany, Austria and Swizterland no longer have their own Royal Family but are obviously not feeling deprived.