Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Karneval is the German’s pre-Lenten season or die fünfte Jahreszeit (fifth season) of their year. Depending on the region of Germany, it may be called either Fastnacht (Night of Fasting) or Fasching as well. My relatives are familiar with Fasching based on their somewhat southern location. As a child, I used to think that Fasching was the German version of Halloween, but I have since learned that is has a much greater meaning.
Carnival in Rio Janeiro is possibly the most famous version throughout the world. As Americans, we are familiar with New Orlean’s Mardi Gras, which is the French-influenced version of this celebration. Almost all of the Catholic regions and cities in the German-speaking world (and the rest of Europe) celebrate the event in some way. Germany’s Karneval is quite similar to such events and begins on different dates depending on the day of Easter each year. However, most traditional regions celebrate its start on the 11th day of the 11th month and continue a low key celebration for the next three months before the Tolle Tage (crazy days). This early date gives the organizers 3 to 4 months to prepare for the events that lead up to the big bash on the week before Ash Wednesday, when the Lenten season begins.
Germany’s most recognized Karneval event occurs in the city of Köln, which had its first celebration in 1341. Köln’s version of Karneval climaxes with a parade on Rosenmontag (Rose Montag), the 42nd day before Easter. The city has elaborate Umzüge (parades) where the event is celebrated. The parades have colorful floats made of paper flowers and marchers dressed in handmade customs, such as paper mashea caricature heads and additional masks carved out of wood. The floats are not only beautiful, but also represent satirical, political and traditional topics. As the floats pass by, those aboard pelt sweets at their spectators on the street while they sing the many old Karneval songs. In addition, the celebration includes a royal court with princes and princesses of the event. The royal court is protected by Prinzengarde (bodyguards) to remind the crowd of the city’s tradition of anti-militarism.
Except for Munich’s Oktoberfest, Karnvel is one of the few times of the year when many normally serious German’s loosen up and go a little crazy. Karneval is definitely another event that is something that I would like to get the chance to experience.

Here’s a German drinking song that is typically sang during the Karneval season.

Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um, juchhe!
Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um!
Soll das Bier im Keller liegen
Und ich hier die Ohnmacht kriegen?
Bier her, Bier her, ode rich fall um!

Wein her, Wein her, oder ich fall um, juchhe!
Wein her, Wein her, oder ich fall um!
Soll der Wein im Keller liegen
Und ich hier die Rheumatismus kriegen?
Wein her, Wein her, ode rich fall um!


Blogger Shayna said...

The Karneval celebration sounds like so much fun!! It seems like I’ll be in Germany after and before the big parts though so that kind of stinks. I guess since I am not Christian I am a little confused of the religious aspects of the celebration, do you think you could explain that a little bit more. Also, do kids dress up like they do here on Halloween? When I will be in Germany for my abroad trip it will pretty much be during the first and last week of January. Are there any specific celebration or special events that you can think of that I should look out for while I am there?

10/17/2005 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger k_ricker06 said...

There are so many more historical and cultural activities that take place in Germany than the United States it is crazy. It almost seems that every month there is a new festival or cultural event going on. The Karneval is so long too, it is nearly a quarter of a calendar year long.
It is pretty awesome that this dates all the way back to the fourteenth century. German citizens were celebrating this over 300 years before the United States even became the United States.
This really would be an excellent event to be able to experience. I'm just wondering how much time people devote towards this on a daily basis. Is it a couple of minutes per day, once a week, and hours a day?

10/20/2005 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I think that is really interesting, especially since you describe it as a Halloween celebration. Some people don’t know that our Halloween is a religious occasion as well. I think in both cultures we tend to forget that because it is always a big celebration that has nothing to do with the meaning. I love Halloween, and I am sure that I would love Karneval. I also love how Germans always find a reason to drink….. the drinking song gets two thumbs up!

10/21/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger LauraL said...

Responses to Questions: Lent is a forty-day period before Easter (the resurrection of Jesus). During this lental period, religious observers usually fast in which the majority do not eat meat on fridays. We fast because we are imitating Jesus' withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. Karneval is the last time to pig-out, to drink and eat, to be happy just before the beginning of the lent, the traditional Christian fast before Easter. The meaning of Fast- (to fast) nacht (night) is "night before the fast.
As far as costumes, Karneval is somewhat similar to Halloween in that sense. I used to see pictures of my cousins dressed up in what I thought was typical Halloween attire when I was younger. However, they do not go trick-or-treating, but parade around through the streets instead.
Normally, the time leading up to the celebrations, the Karneval committee will meet a few times a week to prepare for the event. However, " the crazy days" are celebrated 24 hours around the clock in which endless celebrations occur.
Unfortunately, I am uncertain of any special events that occur in January at this time. I do know that the Christmas markets tend to last until January 6th in most cities. If I do come across anything, I will definitely post it and let you know the details.

10/26/2005 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger ckrause said...

Karneval sounds like another crazy party that I think I need to put on my list of things to do. With all the candy and masks I can see how you got Karneval confused with Halloween when you were younger. Have you ever been to Karneval? I think that I am going to try to get to Mardi Gras before I try to tackle Karneval. Wow, I forgot that Lent is coming up soon. I can't believe how fast this semester is going and how I only have one semester left after this one! :( I really enjoy reading about all this German tradition. Keep it coming. It is really rewarding to learn so much about different cultures.

11/22/2005 04:37:00 PM  

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