Wow! Where to start on Karneval? This is the biggest event since Christmas here and I've been working on this post on & off for a week. So. Many. Pictures. The Karneval season starts on November 11th at 11:11am and culminates on the day prior to Ash Wednesday.
Karneval costumes appeared in stores immediately after Christmas and replaced entire sections of stores that had previously sold Christmas decorations.
In the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, parades are held in most towns and costumes begin appearing on the street. It can be a little weird several weeks ahead of time to see adults dressed as animals or in bathrobes (!) on the street, but as we approached the weekend, there were more costumes than normally dressed people.
My very poor picture of the guy in costume in a bathrobe. He was also carrying a 6 pack of beer. The dude abides??
Two kids - the girl was a pirate and the boy was hamburger & french fries
Adults in animal costumes
The Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday is the real kick-off to the party. Jackson's school celebrated by a full-school-day party (no class at all!) that started at 8:11am and school let out early at 11:11am for a long weekend. They sang songs, played games, and got candy. The adults were all dressed up too! His school then participated in a parade in Poppelsdorf, which we skipped due to leaving town for the long weekend.
Jackson's teacher is this tall man. He dressed up as a church! Complete with a church tower on his head and bricks on his clothes.
Our family dressed & ready for the school party
Throughout the weekend parties and parades continue throughout the city and region. Unlike the Mardi Gras celebrations, Monday (Rosenmontag) is the primary day of celebration with the biggest parades. We got back in town just in time to attend Bonn's parade, which according to the newspapers was one of Bonn's largest with more than 250,000 spectators and lasted most of the afternoon. This is big by Bonn's standards but is dwarfed by Cologne's event which drew over a million.
During the parade, all of the 5200 parade participants throw candy and other treats to the crowd who yell "Kamelle! Kamelle!" to ask for "Treats! Treats!" and hold out bags for candy. You can hear it in the video below:
Each town also has their own Karneval "fool's cry" and Bonn's is "Alaaf!" You can hear it chanted as a call & response when the speaker calls out "Bonn!" and the crowd says "Alaaf!" I looked up "Alaaf" online and it doesn't seem to have an exact translation but is sort of a nonsense word that originally comes from an old drinking word on beer containers meaning "to life!" or possibly "the best!"
I want to know who she was supposed to be!!
Our favorite part were the Venetian Society's beautiful costumes:
These guys were dressed in fur with fake blood dripping down their faces. But their music was just so, um, incongruous with their costumes:
Music was played, cannons were fired, candy was thrown, cheers were yelled, and a good time was had by all of the costumed crowd!
The kids came home with a HUGE bag of candy which also included 3 sets of chopsticks, 2 yellow roses, 2 packs of flower seeds (to be planted in our backyard), a small pack of tissues, a cosmetic product sample, 2 toys, and a lot of popcorn.
In contrast to Mardi Gras, Tuesday (or Violet Tuesday) was very quiet. The kids all returned to school and not a costume was seen. Supposedly, the burning of the "Nubbel" (straw men) happens at midnight to atone for the sins committed during Karneval celebrations, but we didn't see any. Disclaimer: I went to bed at 11 but Matthew went into town to see if he could find some Nubble-Burning, and I asked him to take pictures. Sadly he found nothing.
On Wednesday, I asked Jackson if he went to Mass that day since his school is Catholic & they attend Mass every other week. I remain amused at his impressions of Mass as he relates them to me since he has been raised in Protestant churches and also speaks so little German, so he usually has no idea what's going on or why. He said oh no, it was not the right day, Mommy, but that they talked about the Bible and a man put something on his forehead, which he immediately wiped off! Apparently, he didn't understand what was discussed and thought it was gross! Which then led to a discussion that I should have considered having with him the day before. :/ We will be more prepared next year!
Our parade costumes
I had a hard time getting a picture of the kids at the parade...the crowd was too thick and they didn't want to turn around for the camera! Jackson was Batman and Brandtley was the bat from Wildkrats. Both former Halloween costumes.