It's the time of the year again, the grand finale, the crazy week – the ending of the fifth season.
The time that people in the area either love or dread…
It is Carnival Season!
A lot of people think Octoberfest when they hear Germany, but Octoberfest is not something that Germany associate with Germany, Octoberfest is something Bavarian; It is a unique event for the very south of Germany, especially in and around Munich (München). In the rest of Germany we have other celebrations.
And in North-Rhine Westphalia, NRW, along the Rhine river, there is Carnival.
Yes, carnival. Carnival, the 5:th season, which starts on the 11 of 11 at 11:11 – the 11:th of November – makes a pause for Christmas celebrations, and then continues, well into the new year. For how long? Well, see, that depends on when Easter falls; When Easter is early, carnival is early, when Easter is late, carnival is late – the two are connected, much like lent is, and much like other holidays move around, depending on when easter falls that year.
In NRW the centre of Carnival is in Düsseldorf and Cologne (Köln), while other parts of the state barely celebrates at all – it is in Düsseldorf or Cologne you want to be for the party, or this is what you want to avoid if you don't want to participate – but at least once in your life it's worth experiencing, just because it is so different – who knows, you may actually get hooked.
Just like the Carnival in Rio Carnival in Germany is a huge party that lasts for days, and just like in Brazil, people spend a lot of time working on their costumes. However in Germany there are no little bikinis, feathers and bare skin, in Germany you need to be well dressed – it is the middle of winter after all – and you will see group costumes – Christmas trees, LEGO men, circuses, farm animals, dragons, wizards, witches, ghosts and goblins, fairies, everything you can possibly think of and quite a few things you could never have imagined.
In Germany there is also no Salsa, in Germany there is the good old Umpa-Umpa music mixed with schlager and apre-ski hits, but strangely enough, this time of year, even I can stand it, as long as I am in a costume.
It's a fascinating experience, taking part of or even just observing carnival, the people relax, enjoy, and celebrate for days. It always starts on a Thursday, mid-day, and runs until Monday in Düsseldorf, and until Tuesday in Cologne; There are street parades, there are parties and pub crawls, there is dancing on the tables, but there are also a lot of activities for the little children, and what I like the most about carnival?
Young and old come out and celebrate together, and despite there being quite a bit of alcohol involved in many cases, it really is a holiday of fun and laughter, only once so far have I seen someone getting angry – and that was not a local Düsseldorfer but someone from another part of Germany that didn't know what to expect.
This year, 2015, carnival starts on February 12, and the region is ready. If you can't join this year – try another one. This tradition is here to stay…
(Just don't try and get any business done during Carnival time in Cologne and Düsseldorf. Many businesses close down completely for some days, and that includes many banks.)