Karneval Cologne-style

by Our Man in Deutschland

Karneval Cologne-style

from “Our Man in Deutschland”

Hallo folks! Welcome to another post from Our Man in Deutschland, Hophaus’ official Berlin-based correspondent, sending all the latest brouhaha and festive brew-related goings on from the hoppy heart of Deutschland.

On the back of a wild Weinachten, the raucous revelry of Sylvester Nacht and the uber-pyrotechnic reigning in of the Berlin New Year, you’d think the festive season in Deutschland would finally die down come January and February. Not so! The Germans are in a league of their own when it comes to conviviality, masters of stretching the good times out.

Over here, ‘Karneval’ or ‘Fasching’ season (fondly known as the ‘fifth’ season of the year) kicks off each November 11th at precisely 11:11 a.m.—it encompasses Advent, Christmas, the feast of Sylvester, and kicks on all the way through to the beginning of the Christian feast of ‘lent’. That final week marks the end of the three and a half month festive patch—and calls for all-out celebration.

It’s a climactic bash of street partying and revelry, and the largest one of all takes place in the city of Cologne.

The crazy days! The wild week of the Cologne Karneval

Each February, between Fat Thursday (Weiberfastnacht) and Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch), the good people of Cologne herald in their most cherished event, the world famous ‘Kölln Karnival’.

These ‘crazy days’ sees the city metamorphose into a wild melange of street partying, balls, drinking, dancing and dress ups. Cologne turns into a fabulous fantasy world, a loose affair where the concept of ‘closing time’ does not exist—every bar and pub in town is not only allowed, but encouraged to keep their doors wide open for the entire week!

While the action is more or less constant the whole week, the festivities peak on Rose Monday (Rosenmontag) with an annual showpiece parade, a 6-kilometre spectacle of floats involving 12,000 performers, 350 horses, 120 bands, and the all-important ritual hurling of flower bunches (Strüßjer) and sweets (Kamelle). While the first recorded modern parade took place in 1823, the roots of the ‘Kölln Karnival’ date back 2000 years!

One of the Karneval’s most notable institutions is ‘the Dreigestirn’, a trio of rich locals who dress as the Jungfrau, Prinz, and Bauer—aka Virgin (‘Her Loveliness’), Prince (‘His Madness’) and Farmer (‘His Heftyness’). This wacky triumvirate become arbitrary rulers of the weeklong bash, lording over the  ‘foolish town people’ like a troika of drunken, despotic Moomba Kings. Paying big money for the privilege, their duties consist chiefly of leading the parades and flaunting about in fancy, feathery attire (it’s worth noting that ‘Her Loveliness,’ the Virgin is invariably played by a man—beards and moustaches forbidden; lumbersexuals need not apply!)

The city’s men are advised to keep their wits about them on Karneval Thursday, aka “Old Women’s’ Day”—as a commemoration of an 1824 revolt by the city’s washerwomen, the ladies of Cologne are given carte blanche to storm city halls, snip men’s neck ties with scissors and kiss any fella who passes them by. In fact, the act of kissing strangers with pursed lips (bützje) is rife the whole week, but don’t let this get you too hot around the collar; the official Karneval guide lays it down straight: “this kissing is not the beginning of a seduction, but absolutely essential and common.”

As far as dress code is concerned, anything is good to go at Karneval long as you feel comfortable in it (within reason—bottom-less chaps are ill-advised, particularly in the February chill). The general guide is ‘fancy dress,’ with Karneval goers (‘jecken’) always rather fond of clown gear, ball masks, onesies and an array of kitsch masquerade getup.

Karneval-Cologne-jecken

‘Kreppel’ donuts are the traditional Fasching food—baked, fried and consumed by the millions during these ‘crazy days’. While you’re knocking back endless pints of delicious Kolsch bier, stuffing yourself full of kreppel donuts, you’ll likely hear a common greeting as you waddle your way through the streets in your clown getup or tiger onesie—Kölle Alaaf! “Cologne above all!”

Come Ash Wednesday, if you feel you’ve gotten a bit too raucous during the mad week and are concerned about the fallout of your behaviour, don’t be too worried—come weeks’ end, a scapegoat straw doll is burned, serving as an effigy for all transgressions committed!

Each year, the Cologne Karneval sports a fresh festival slogan—keeping things neatly fruity, 2015’s mantra is “Social ‘jeck’—let’s share the craic!”

The History of ‘Carnival’

The urge to cut loose, connect and get merry in a large group situation is one the most primal human rites. Carnival has, in some form, been a prominent ritual since antiquity—Ancient Greeks and Romans honoured deities Bacchus and Dionysus with wine feasts and orgies; Germanic Tribes took up chasing wild winter spirits during the smoky nights of the ‘Rauchnachte’; naturally, Christians continued on with festivities of their own, with countless Carnival offshoots and traditions sprouting up throughout the past 2000 years.

But where exactly does the term ‘Carnival’ come from? The meaning isn’t entirely certain—some think it was derived from the late Latin term carne vale, which translates as ‘farewell to meat’, a nod to the final week before the fast of lent in which folks were forbidden to consume animal meat.

Carne could also mean ‘flesh’—the mantra ‘farewell to flesh’ is a neat fit too, a mantra of encouragement for people to let go of their ‘physical, fleshy selves’ and become fully entranced by the Carnival spirit.

Carnival All Over the World

Rio might take the ‘kreppel’ for hosting on one the most spectacular and lively Carnivals on the planet, but the haughty Brazilians are far from alone in the festive sentiment. Almost every nation that observes Christian or Catholic rite and ritual in some way celebrates Carnival, each with their own unique style and tastes.

In Spain, the ‘Entierro de la Sardina’ hosts a funeral for a giant sardine; in Villanova, old and young mill together in town squares to hurl sweets at each other in an all-out sugar battle; Belgians are fond of maximum pyro; Hungarians like to spike baked goods on pointy weapons; while the people of Tirnavos, Greece celebrate with a special troika of their own: giant phalluses, spinach soup and obscene language!

National idiosyncrasies aside, the core ingredients remain the same—raucousness, dancing, consumption, revelry and good old-fashioned mayhem. While there might not be quite as much glitter and samba as Rio (nor anywhere near as much nudity as New Orleans), Cologne’s Karneval is one of the greatest and most festive in the world. As far as endless supplies of delicious bier is concerned, it certainly wins out.

Rheine on the Southbank: Cologne Karneval comes to Hophaus!

No need to book that hasty trip to the Rhineland for this years’ festival fill. Keep it local and get crazy at Hophaus’ inaugural ‘Cologne Karneval’ celebration!

Between Thursday 12 and Wednesday 18 February, we invite you to get your clown on and get merry with us—indulge in speciality biers flown in just for the occasion, a sumptuous Karneval food menu, a wild atmosphere all week, as well as the world famous Hophaus Cologne Karneval ‘Best Dressed’ Competition to be held on Sunday February 15 February.

Kölle Alaaf! Hophaus Alaaf!

Cologne Karneval @ Hophaus Bier Bar Grill
Thursday 12 – Wednesday 18 February

Bookings a must!
Get in touch! (03) 9682 5900

Leave a Reply