February 16th, 2012:
It’s Carnival in Germany! Although it is celebrated in all of Germany and many other surrounding countries, the area it is mostly celebrated in the state we live in (North Rhine Westphalia). The tradition started back in the 1800s and has grown since then.
The main carnival celebrations start the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Thursday is the day of “Old Women Day” or “The Women’s Day” and is in tribute to the 1824 revolt by washer women. On this festive day, women storm city halls, cut men’s ties, and are allowed to kiss any man they pass. Everyone wears costumes, so you may see some are men dressed as women or nuns, or maybe some pirates, pilots, clowns, etc.
On Monday, there are parades and people wear all sorts of costumes, from carrots to monks. Every town has its own parade and there are even floats. Monday, is not technically a holiday, but many stores and businesses are closed. (That means Sunday and Monday you better be prepared to not have the grocery store open!) Cologne has the biggest celebration in all of Germany and it is the home of the Carnival. Their parade lasts hours and the center of town is packed with people. Many roads are closed for the parade so it is highly recommended that you take the train.
It is believed that the name of “Carnival” was due to the words Carne Vale which means farewell to meat. This is because lent begins on Ash Wednesday and for the religious, it is common for meat to be given up for the forty days. These few days before lent is a time to eat, drink, and be merry.