Ethnic traditions

Alaaf and Helau! Carnival in Germany

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Carnival, or the “Fifth Season,” is in full swing in Germany. From Thursday, costumed revelers will be crowding the streets to celebrate parades and never-ending parties. Here is our guide to carnival and its greetings.

Kölle Alaaf!

Kölle Alaaf! is the typical Cologne Carnival greeting, which can be translated as “Cologne above all!” This cry can be heard throughout the week-long street festival, which begins in earnest on Thursday and ends on Ash Wednesday. Some one million visitors flock to the city on the Rhine to join the celebrations, which tend to take place all day and night – turning the city into a party zone.

Narri Narro München! The fools rule Munich!

In Munich, carnival is known as “Fasching,” and is celebrated mainly in all the big halls. Narri Narro calls for fools to rule the city during the festival. One outdoor highlight is the dance of the market women on the Viktualienmarkt. Women wear home-made colorful and extravagant costumes. The women’s dance traditionally also marks the end of Bavaria’s festivities.

Helau Düsseldorf!

After Cologne and Mainz, Düsseldorf is the third big carnival stronghold in the Rhineland where the carnival battle cry is also “Helau”. Carnival begins with the annual symbolic awaking of a character known as “Hoppediz” on November 11, when he emerges from a mustard pot. It all ends on Ash Wednesday when a doll representing Hoppediz is set on fire and then buried while onlookers wail in mourning. Video

Hu hu hu Rottweil!

In Baden-Württemberg carnival known as Fasnet in the local dialect is also important. In Rottweil it’s celebrated according to Swabian-Alemannic traditions. Revelers, called larvae, wear hand-carved wooden masks, walk the town and call out “Hu hu hu.” On the Monday and Shrove Tuesday, there is the “Narrensprung” or “Fool’s Jump” street procession in which only true Rottweil-ians can participate.

Ho Narro Konstanz! Hail fools of Constance!

Like Rottweil the town of Constance on the shores of Lake Constance is small, but big when it comes to celebrating Swabian-Alemannic Fasnet carnival. Parades are dominated by the “Blätzlebuebe”, the name given to the guild members who dress in “Häs” costumes made of thousands of bits of material and felt. With their costumes they want to represent a colorful cockerel.

Fölsch Foll – Hinein! Throw yourself into it in Fulda!

The German state of Hesse also likes to celebrate carnival. Some 4,000 participants and floats venture along the four-kilometer procession through Fulda’s inner city – making it the biggest carnival parade in the state. And yet compared to Cologne it is small – because three times as many participants walk twice as far in the Cologne Rose Monday carnival procession.

Cottbus Helau!

In eastern Germany carnival does not have a longstanding tradition, but nevertheless it is marked with celebrations and parades. Cottbus beats other carnival strongholds by getting started a week earlier: on the Sunday a week before Rose Monday the “Procession of happy people” parades through the town, with 3,000 participants joyfully throwing sweets and chocolates to the crowds along the route.

Bremen Ahoy!

Bremen-ites enjoy heating things up with samba rhythms and exotic costumes creating a carnival with a little taste of Rio. Some 35,000 people come to the Hanseatic city to enjoy the biggest annual Samba carnival in Europe. People on stilts, dancers and live music bands participate in the city procession – so a great alternative for anyone wanting to save on the fare to Brazil.

Helau Mainz!

Helau, thought to be an old shepherd’s call, is today used as a carnival greeting. In Mainz the “Schwellköpp” – oversized papier-mâché heads known as “swollen heads” – have been an important part of the city’s carnival for over 80 years. Their big day is the Rose Monday parades – which is no mean feat as each head, exaggeratedly representing typical Mainz characters, weighs around 30 kilograms. Source

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