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… Celebrate Carnival in the Rhineland?

boy in carnival costume at parade

What’s it like to celebrate carnival in Germany? Well, we’re not living in one of the prime destinations for carnival celebrations, such as Cologne or Mainz, but even small cities and towns have parades and celebrations for the kids (and adults alike). So even if it’s not Carnival in Rio or Carnival of Venice, German towns have to offer quite a bit, from colorful floats, crazy revelers (“Jecke“), music, dancers, and – the most important thing of all – “Kamelle”!!! This is the name for the candy thrown from the floats or out of bags of the people walking behind the floats.

We had gone there to show off Lyons Cub’s new Bowser costume, to ride there on his HUDORA stunt scooter, and to collect plenty of candy. We had brought a shopping bag for that (and he really got to fill it). At first, my son wanted to wear his judo suit, but I was able to divert him from this idea, because it would not have stayed white in the bad weather (and because of all the chocolate and sweets handed out). We parked his scooter at a lamp post behind us and waited impatiently for the floats to arrive. We danced a bit to the music from the boomboxes; my son’s favorite song is “Stadt met K” (meaning Koeln, Cologne).

In preparation for the big event, the city had placed large, orange utility trucks into the entry and exit of all the streets, as well as in the crossroads, so no traffic could get through, only the pedestrians and the floats. The police and the Malteser Hilfsdienst (an organization like the Red Cross, in case there were accidents) were everywhere. You could recognize them due to their work clothes, because in Germany, it’s forbidden for adults to disguise as system-relevant professionals (like policemen, firemen, etc.), so as not to confuse people in case of an emergency.

The floats were pulled by tractors with enormous wheels, and I have to say German security functioned really well, because a supervisor was walking next to every wheel to make sure no candy-collecting little kids ran in front of a wheel. If a piece of candy landed too close to a while, the supervisor kicked it into the crowd for the kids to catch.

There were groups of police officers in neon yellow safety vests marching between the floats, to make sure there were no accidents or tumults (sometimes, drunk people create disorder, but yesterday, all was peaceful and enjoyable). This was the first time that carnival was allowed in public again since the start of the pandemic, so it’s not surprising that people crowded the sides of the streets and gave it their all, shouting “Helau!” and “Alaaf!”

We admired the many different costumes of the big and the small carnival fans. Lyons Cub was Bowser, mommy was Yoshi, and we met several Marios and Luigis and got to say hi to a few. It was like meeting family, haha. Leander’s big cousin was a white chicken, and it was too bad that it was raining slightly, because his white fur (not feathers!) got very wet 😉 Leander’s oldest cousin was a dancer (called “Funkenmariechen”), and when she came by our place in the crowd lining the main street, she walked out of her team and handed my son a gift (The Jungle Book).

Some people had custom made their costumes; thus, we saw adults, children, and strollers disguised as suns, clouds, and lightning strikes. Other revelers wore cars and certainly put lots of effort into their beautiful works of art:

We saw a group of people who had made their disguises out of blue trash bags and stuck home-made sea creatures and algae on them, with cat tails on a stroller. Very pretty and creative!

At the very end of the parade came the float with the much awaited “Prinzengarde,” the corps accompanying the triumvirate: The carnival prince (who is the king of the fools in a jester’s hat), the maiden, and a peasant.

The people on the floats and in the procession were not only throwing candy – there were also tulips, kitchen sponges (!!), balloons, colored markers, clapping plastic hands, etc. flying into the crowd and onto the pavement. Since it was raining, lots of candy ended up in muddy puddles, but the organizers had planned well in advance – the candy was all wrapped in watertight foil, and chocolate bars were taped shut with Scotch tape, so they wouldn’t open up and dispose the contents to the water. Nice!

We arrived at 2 p.m. to pick our place along the main street, but the parade only came past us around 3:30 p.m. By that time, we were already quite frozen, so when it was all over at around 5 p.m., we were happy to carry our heavy, candy-filled bag home on the scooter. We warmed up, drank hot cocoa, and ate “Kamelle.”

Helau and Alaaf!!!

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