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Alaaf! November 11, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture.

Oh, how could I have forgotten that today is also the start of Karneval in the Rhineland! Thanks to my friend Heike, who reminded me. “The fifth season” begins at 11:11 a.m. on November 11th every year when women storm the City Hall and officially begin Karneval (Carnival). Karneval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February and March. The Karneval spirit is then temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year, culminating on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). Weiberfastnacht is the Thursday before Rosenmontag and is marked by lots of drinking and costumes – and men’s ties are not safe, because the women cut them off. Most businessmen wear old or ugly ties today for this very reason.

Carnival is mostly associated with Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox Christians; Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, like the Danish Carnival. The world’s longest carnival celebration is held in Brazil but many countries worldwide have large, popular celebrations, such as Carnaval of Venice, or the world famous German celebrations. Karneval festivities are especially strong in the Rhineland region (Cologne, Bonn and Düsseldorf), since it was a way to express subversive anti-Prussian and anti-French thoughts in times of occupation, through parody and mockery.

So Kölle Alaaf! I’ll be cracking out my Karneval CD this morning and celebrating virtually with all my friends in the Rhineland.



1. Susanne Aldridge III - November 11, 2008

Kölle Alaaf to you too! I realized the same thing this morning, and I wish I could freeze my butt off at Alter Markt right now.
I have a small correction though, Weiberfastnacht is actually the Thursday before Rosenmontag.I looked around this morning, because I was sure there is a name for today’s day, but it seems like today is just 11.11, and at 11.11am carnival starts with a big bang – that’s my theory. I will schunkeln with myself a little bit, just to commemorate the day.

2. Irish polyglot - November 11, 2008

The Carnival in Brazil is definitely the best one I’ve experienced. Here is how it went for me this year in the northeast of Brazil in Olinda, a very different experience to the more touristy Rio one. The whole month of January leading up to the main Carnival week still had crazy celebrations in the street, it was amazing! They’d be celebrating in anticipation the months before as well, but wouldn’t call it Carnival as far as I know; I didn’t realize it lasted months in some places…

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