gingerbred (gingerbred) wrote,

The Fifth Season. Fasching, Jetzt Erst Recht*

Going out on a limb here, I'm going to say because some of the regular four are wanting, along the Rhein in Germany we have what we call 'the fifth season', the Karneval (Carnival) season. It starts on 11 November (St. Martin's Day) at 11.11 am and runs through Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins, traditionally kicking off forty days of abstinence or fasting leading up to Easter. Well aware things are about to get a bit bleak, one might think a sobering thought, ever practical, instead the last week of this is full of Karneval parades and fancy dress balls and dances and roasts and stage performances. Music, masks, costumes, and a frankly ridiculous amount of alcohol play major roles. Fasching has a long tradition going back to the twelfth century; the first official parade continuing to the present day was registered in Nürnberg in 1397.

A painting by Simon Meister from 1836 depicting the Rose Monday parade in Cologne.

To help you visualise the (more modern) parade portion of the festivities, the floats tend to be a mix, some depicting papier-mâché scenes (frequently political), dance troupes, live bands, or simply groups of costumed people. The latter typically fire off confetti cannons and throw streamers and goodies into the often equally costumed crowds to the sound of music blasting through giant racks of speakers and are greeted by cries of 'Alaff', in the north, and 'Helau', in parts further south. (By 'goodies' for the most part I mean perfectly silly amounts of candy and small bottles of high-voltage alcohol. Yeah, no 'carding' here.) They're interspersed with majorettes, marching bands, and representatives from a wide variety of local associations dressed in an almost equally wide variety of costumes, often particularly amusing in their attempts to be prepared for any and every weather. (Winter isn't always kind at this latitude.)

Local groups and clubs (the ones you join, the special interest groups, not where you'd go to dance) put an incredible amount of effort into material that will contribute to these celebrations, whether in the form of building extravagant floats for the parades, marching bands learning numbers to perform, or majorette or dance groups creating elaborate routines.

One of my personal favourite groups is the local garbage collection company. (Yes, I'm serious.) I used to live on a parade route, and fun and games aside, you wouldn't believe the mess created. (Those damn confetti cannons...) First off, these people do a phenomenal job of restoring order to things in a very short time. Chapeau. The garbage company always sent a team of people who'd march last in the parade, dancing and sweeping as they went. Over time, that mutated, until they also had floats of their own, where workers drummed on trash cans and did their very own version of 'Stomp'. They threw biodegradable packets of flower seeds from the float, effectively seed bombing the route in the process, and for the extra special treats, there were small compostable flower pots with sunflower seeds and a planting substrate to get the kids started growing something of their own. (I really love these guys.)

So, anyway it's a lot of work, and a big thing, and many people derive a great deal of enjoyment from it.

Yesterday was Rose Monday (the rest of the world would probably call the day itself 'Shrove Monday'), one of the largest days of Fasching celebrations in Germany. And some complete and utter asswipe accelerated his car into a mass of people watching their local parade in Volkmarsen. By latest count, sixty people were injured, thirty-five seriously, roughy a third of them are children, and the rest of the parades in the state of Hessen were suspended for the day. (They've got the guy and I believe the present charges translate to 'attempted manslaughter'.)

Today, Fat Tuesday, over a third of the parades have been cancelled due to security concerns. The rest have decided to keep going, "Jetzt erst recht." (* 'Well now we're definitely going to do it.') because people have put too much time and effort into this and some of us are tired of asshats winning.

I'm keeping the injured and their families in my thoughts, everyone who worked hard for something only to have it taken away by someone else's hate, those who were just looking forward to a lovely afternoon with family and friends that's been cancelled... And I'm wishing those who are saying 'screw this' to fear all the very best. Helau!
Tags: german, german culture, germany, home, real world

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