Helau!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Karneval festivities were heating up and that people were getting seriously into it. I had no idea… Seriously. As I write this, it is the end of the season, so to speak, with only 1 more days left to squeeze in whatever partying you may have left in you. How seriously do people in these parts take it? The parking lot behind our building is exclusively for workers at a nearby business. It is usually full. Today? Less than 1/3 of the spaces have cars as temporary residents. Schools in the area have shut down for the week. Although it isn’t an official holiday, several businesses and shops around town are closed. Why? In some sort of somber preparation for the holy Lenten season? P-shaw. I think not. People are squeezing every last bit of partying into the last few days of Karneval that they possibly can. It is INTENSE, people.

As I’m prone to do in these posts, I must confess my complete and total ignorance. I knew that Karneval was a pretty big deal in Brazil (and I went ahead and generalized in my head to South America), home to the grand parties in Rio. Of course, I was aware of the spectacular parties in Venice. And, of course, there is always Mardi Gras. Here? They start the party before Christmas, really, on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11am. Parties are held with increasing intensity right up until Ash Wednesday, too. That’s 3 whole months of serious partying. There is very little that you could say that the Germans do half-way, and Karneval is more like one of those things that the Germans do in triplicate. There are a lot of parties where almost everyone will be wearing a similar costume, and there are parties where it’s more of an anything-goes kind of costume. There are kids parties, family parties, adults parties. If you have another idea about how they could break it down, I’ll put money on it that they would be happy to incorporate it. We’re in a part of Germany where most people will call them Fasching parties, but it really is all the same thing:  A Capital P Party.

Allow me to share a little bit of what I’ve learned through my research into this most colorful cause for celebration! There is a wee bit of debate about the origin of the word “Carneval,” although if you believe that the festival season is strictly aligned with the Christian season of Lent, you are likely to buy the one about how it comes from the “Carne Vale” or “Carne Lavare” which is basically a farewell to meat (and good riddance says the vegetarian in me!). There is also an argument that people have been celebrating Carneval since before Christians added the Lenten season to our calendars, in which case you would probably go with the theory that it comes from the Roman phrase “carrus navalis,” which was a festival celebrating the start of the sailing season in which the image of Isis was carried to the shore and involved a parade of masks. Either way, it looks like the dad in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” would be disappointed as neither etymology turns up a Greek origin. (“Helau!” is the traditional Karneval greeting everywhere in Germany except in the Köln area, where one would shout “Alaaf!”)

Karneval celebrations in southern Germany are said to symbolize driving out winter (hurray!!) and all of the evil spirits winter brought with it (indeed..). Traditionally, though, Karneval celebrations in Germany were a time that the people could mock the politicians and leaders (this was especially true after the French took over the Rhineland part of Germany, which is where Köln is, which is a likely explanation for why their celebrations are supposed to be so, so outrageous!) safely behind masks.

Yesterday was Aschaffenburg’s karnevalsumzug (Karneval parade). Again, I really had no idea. You would think that after the zeal with which they celebrate their fork trucks, I would be prepared, but… no. I was not. Sitting in the comfort of my living room, hours before the parade started, I started getting a clue. A party bus (when I say party bus, I mean a city bus decked out with balloons and loud speakers swaying slowly down the street as the revelers inside crank up the techno-music) ambled down the street outside our building… random bumble bees tripped down the sidewalk. I remained naive… until:

To kick things off, let me present a man, dressed as a nun, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. Good times!

To kick things off, let me present a man, dressed as a nun, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. Good times! Please also note that Mike had a better read on this whole situation than I did, and brought a beer with him to celebrate in true German fashion…

To indicate how seriously this event was being taken, a couch was installed at the pedestrian crossing!

To indicate how seriously this event was being taken, a couch was installed at the pedestrian crossing!

Guess which of these is an XX woman, and which is an XY.

Guess which of these is an XX woman, and which is an XY.

On some streets, this might appear to be just a normal group of teenagers. These, however, were German teenagers dressed as gangstas!

On some streets, this might appear to be just a normal group of teenagers. These, however, were German teenagers dressed as gangstas!

Before the parade rolled through, these wagons of pretzels came up the parade route. Very festive!

Before the parade rolled through, these wagons of pretzels came up the parade route. Very festive!

Little did I know, the party bus was also making an appearance in the parade! Just so you know, they were handing out shots!

Little did I know, the party bus was also making an appearance in the parade! Just so you know, they were handing out shots! (The majority of groups were handing out candy to the kids, although there were several beer wagons, and at least 2 or 3 liquor passers..)

Does this picture need a caption?

Does this picture need a caption? (that’s not a baby she’s reaching to comfort, I can promise you that…)

dressed as horses! haha...

dressed as horses! haha… for some reason, this really tickled me!

how many beer bottles can you find in this band? The first time I saw someone simultaneously blowing his horn and drinking a beer, I will admit, even after all this time in Germany, I was surprised!

how many beer bottles can you find in this band? The first time I saw someone simultaneously appearing to blow his horn and drinking a beer, I will admit, even after all this time in Germany, I was surprised! (at least 1/2 of every group came prepared with their own refreshments)

We were also a bit surprised the the strong presence of bagpipes... There were a couple of other marching scots groups, too...

We were also a bit surprised the the strong presence of bagpipes… There were a couple of other marching Highlander groups, too…

The "March Mallows" haha. hahahaha.

The “March Mallows” haha. hahahaha.

The aforementioned bumble bees! (she was handing out candy...)

The aforementioned bumble bees! (she was handing out candy…)

Snow White was also handing out candy (to the kids), but I would have been scared to death of this coming at me if I were a wee one!

Snow White was also handing out candy (to the kids), but I would have been scared to death of this coming at me if I were a wee one! (He was even creepier in person!)

Aschaffenburg's American Football team! Mike told me that they (the Stallions) played the Ball Bearings in the last game of the season...

Aschaffenburg’s American Football team! Mike told me that they (the Stallions) played the Ball Bearings in the last game of the season…

One final snapshot from the afternoon... the patio at the Mexican restaurant. IT IS 25 DEGREES OUTSIDE, AND THE WIND IS BLOWING!!

One final snapshot from the afternoon… the patio at the “Mexican” restaurant. IT IS 25 DEGREES OUTSIDE, AND THE WIND IS BLOWING!

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Helau!

  1. Pingback: Helau! | ChristianBookBarn.com

    • It was awesome! I am so, so, so glad to have been there for that! We are anything but sure, but based on “skill in walking in heels” (only), the one on the right may have been XX. It is possible…. not for sure…

  2. This is fantastic! Welcome to Germany! What a way to celebrate.

    I was in Mainz for the parade last year, and the Germans were throwing tissues, toilet paper and napkins from their floats! 🙂 It cracked me up. My gf needed some tissues for her nose and not 15 minutes later, she caught some! Haha!

    The brief history lesson was great too. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s