Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Karneval (Carnival) in Germany – Alaaf! Helau!

When we hear about Carnival, the world famous and the most grand Rio Carnival from Brazil flashes to us, yet Carnival is celebrated in many countries during different period of time and Germany is no exception. Cologne, Mainz and Düsseldorf are most famous and hold the biggest parades for the Carnival. Cologne’s Carnival fest is highly regarded all over Europe with millions thronging to the city from all over the Europe to not only have a glimpse of the most renowned Cologne Cathedral but also to indulge in madness of ridicule and let loose themselves.

The tradition of Karneval or Fasching or Fastnacht or Mardi Gras dates back to medieval Germany which developed downright blasphemy with people dressing up as animals and performing crazy acts like Mass of Asses. After 1820, Karneval was used as an event to make fun of French people, whom they hated and held grudges. Till today, the Karneval satire is kept alive with displaying caricatures of the most hated people during the Karneval parades.

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The Council of Eleven, “Elferrat”, tradition dating back to 1823, wearing fool’s caps as their official headgear meet at 11:11 on November 11 to announce the start of Fifth Season of the year i.e., the Karneval session and plan the events for the Karneval every year. The main festivities of Karneval starts around Thursday before Ash Wednesday and ends with Ash Wednesday, “Asher Mittwoch”. So this year, the main Karneval period of Cologne and Düsseldorf starts on Carnival Thursday called Altweiber (Old Woman Day) in Düsseldorf or Wieverfastelovend (The Women’s Day) in Cologne. The tradition of women cutting men’s ties and shoe laces is still followed in Cologne and Düsseldorf. Parades are organized by different Carnival clubs from Friday and the highlight is the Rose Monday parade. On this day people dressed in costumes gather on the streets in chilly winter weather crying Alaaf Alaaf! in Cologne and Helau! Helau!  in Düsseldorf  and let loose themselves as the most flamboyant parades pass thru.

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Rose Monday Parade of 15.02.2010:

Cologne: starts at 10:30 at Chlodwigplatz of Cologne and moves along a 6.5 kms stretch thru the downtown of Cologne for about 4 hours. For more details check this out: http://www.koeln.de/tourismus/karneval/der_koelner_strassenkarneval_93184.html

Düsseldorf: starts at Joseph-Beuys-Ufer and moves onto the Oberkasseler Bridge over Rhine and thru to the downtown of Düsseldorf. The Bilker street is the best place to enjoy the parade. More Info at: http://www.duesseldorf.de/top/thema010/events/veranstaltungen/karneval2010/index.shtml

Well, parades are just fun during the day, yet the celebrations continue all thru the night with almost every pub organizing special Carnival parties. Just time to wither out the chilly weather.

Well, I am definitely excited with the Carnival this year, I know it will be icy-weather out there, yet I just want to have bash on these days to get rid of the wintry gloom.

Image Courtesy: http://www.koeln.de/bilder/kategorie/karneval/galerie/

Excerpts From: www.thelocal.de


  1. Seem to be an interesting carnival.. let me dig out more information about this... All I knew about Germany is the 'Oktober Beer Festival', though I don't drink :)

  2. @Mohan: Germany has a long history of Carnival traditions. Cologne Carnival festival is very popular in Europe. Already getting mad in the fifth season of madness.

  3. oh very strange for me to read the history of Carnival Tradition.. here are some more history about Karneval.....