(mfe) Okay, here’s the POV from a Bavarian guy who’s not into the concept of Carnival, but I won’t be nagging, just explaining: Every year, six weeks before Easter, some parts of Germany go virtually insane and crazy for a few days. Officially starting on November 11, at 11:11, some Germans – in fact a huge number – start to celebrate their “silly season” (Närrische Zeit), which they also like to call “the fifth season of the year”. It’s a long tradition, introducing the Christian habit of the fasting period “Lent” as a preparation for Easter (thus the six weeks). You might be familiar with Mardi Gras in the US (with New Orleans as the stronghold) or the Carnival of Venice, which base upon the same concept. Here’s the encyclopedic background: Karneval, Fastnacht und Fasching (Wikipedia, German)
Especially along the Rhine river, but also in Northern Bavaria this has a long tradition, where people dress up funny, similar to Americans around Helloween.There’s a different name for it, depending on the region, and people will react strongly if you use the wrong term! But we weren’t Germans if we didn’t do the whole Carnival thingy it in our own, very organized way with a lot of beer. There’s satirical (mostly not really that funny) courts and government meetings, like this “Prunksitzung des Elferrats” here:
What to expect?
Be prepared to see satirical street parades on Monday and Tuesday – “Rosenmontag” und “Faschingsdienstag”, especially in Cologne, Wiesbaden, Mainz and other cities – and full media coverage on TV. They say for 2017 there was a record amount of Donald Trump whigs sold.
Many bavarian cities do parade on “Faschingssonntag”, (Sunday) or on Saturday – so the inner city streets will be blocked. Not only, but especially in the evenings lots and lots of Germans are going out, crazily dressed up like Indians, cowboys, cops, astronauts, zebras or something you cannot understand nor describe.
Remember that the concept of political correctness doesn’t matter that much over here like e.g. in the States. Germans will go out fo dancing, screaming, singing, partying and drinking, in the evening heading for traditional guesthouses, usually with huge ballrooms. Younger people tend to do similar, but in disco clubs or bars. The hangovers are legend and a great topic to wail and socialize about.
Here’s a video of what happened on Nürnberg streets in 2016, not far from our office, so be prepared:
Kisses and tie-cutting women
Generally the amount of people running around wearing masks during work hours, while happily shouting “Helau, Alaaf”, or different non-sense words like “Radi Radi” (in Regensburg), drinking beer during daytime, hugging and kissing complete strangers no matter if those want or are okay with it has been steadily decreasing over the years. But if you don’t like a stranger’s kiss or your tie being cut with a scissor on “Weiberfastnacht” (the Thursday before Fasching), then you definitely should not go to Cologne during these days, and maybe generally avoid citiy centers in Northern Bavaria on the evenings of Rosenmontag and Faschingsdienstag. Remember: On Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch) everything is over – an old German saying: “Am Aschermittwoch ist alles vorbei”
In the meantime, you could happily enjoy some “Faschingskrapfen” – special donuts that German bakeries provide in the weeks before Fasching, filled and topped with a multitude of sweet sugary stuff. If you get the one with mustard filling, don’t worry, ask the host, because you maybe just have won the grand price – an old German custom, too.