The 5th Season
As the year end approaches at high speed, November is upon us. A month which officially marks the beginning of what some like to call the 5th season of North-Rhine-Westphalia – that is, the carnival season. If you haven’t seen the Germans all out in their numbers, costumed up, with lots of alcohol going around and having much fun; brace yourself for the jolliest time of the year is upon us.
The 11th of November which is commonly referred to as the “elfte – elfte” translated to eleven-eleven, marks the beginning of carnival, and the season will go on until Rose Monday, which falls place on March of the next year. Ash Wednesday officially marks the end of the carnival season and is decorated by numerous parties and celebrations.
There is a lot of history and different reasons behind why carnival is celebrated. One of which is that, a long time ago, people would gather all dressed up in costumes and masks in their villages to chase away the evil spirits at the end of winter. Carnival also marks the time before lent were people would celebrate, eat, drink and be merry; in preparation for the fasting time. In the old days, this was done so that their food would not go bad during this time of self-denial.
Cologne and Düsseldorf are two major cities with the biggest carnival celebrations. And given the rivalry between these two, it makes up for an even more heated atmosphere, with jabs thrown at each other through mocking songs fighting over who is on the wrong side of the Rhine river. During carnival, everybody is in high spirits, laughing and conversing with everybody. You can’t help but be infiltrated with the jolly mood.
To get the full carnival experience, make sure that on the 11th of November at 11:11 am you are dressed up in your (warm) costume and find yourself at some place (best at a local townhouse) were the jolly carnivalists are usually gathered to celebrate the beginning of carnival. There is also a big closing carnival procession on Rose Monday with different floats, showing satiric and political designs that were significant in that year. Not to forget marching bands, music and dancers in the procession group throwing sweets and goodies to the crowds standing along the streets shouting “Kamelle”, as well as “Alaaf” (in Köln) or “Helau” (in Düsseldorf).
It is always good to see a people which has stuck to its traditions and continue to embrace them. So Don’t shy away, join in the fun.
By Audrey Ncube