Carnival Season In Köln, Germany!

It’s carnival season, whether you’re in Köln, Germany or Brazil, entering the super new moon in Pisces calls for a bit of celebration, thank goodness as we could perhaps all do with an extra spring in our step!

This year was special for Köln, Germany as the city celebrated 200-years of carnival.

Two hundred years ago, Köln had its first parade where the Prussian administration allowed a parade to form a big circle on the main square in Köln, of course this was a way they could control the parade and spectators.

Today over one million visitors visit Köln to watch the parade which goes on for 3-4 hours. 

I managed to experience a small window of pre-carnival celebration when visiting my godfather in Köln. It was a busy week as preparation in various villages, towns and cities were all getting ready for the big carnival in Köln. 

As my godfather is a photographer, his agency sent him to cover many pre-carnival events, and I had the pleasure of joining as his assistant. 

First up was visiting Hürth Knapsack in Feierabendhaus, also known as an ‘After work house.’ The building itself was an architectural marvel from the 50s and similar in style to places like the Sydney Opera House, Brasilia and the concert hall in Berlin. 

Outside many carnival revellers awaited, either smoking, eating or simply lining up to be let into the venue. It was clear that in order to enter, you should really be wearing a costume. 

The event itself started around midday, but is usually a whole day affair with carnival music, comedians and bands. This kind of setting is also known as a “Sitzung,” a sit in, because you’re seated, and don’t stand…that said, depending on how much beer you drink, partygoers are known to get on the tables and chairs to dance the night away! It’s not surprising given each table has its own keg of beer called Kölsch which is available in Köln only.

Many of the costumiers were wearing military style costumes, including the marching band which was a treat! 

Apparently, the reason for these uniforms historically speaking is to symbolise the craziness of militarism, so it’s a bit of tongue and cheek. 

This type of carnival was invented to laugh about militarism, especially the French occupation and later the troops from Berlin and the Prussian king (Friedrich II.) who took over the Rhineland when they tried to expand the kingdom of Prussia. 

This was laughed about as Rhinelanders didn’t like the formal, bureaucratic Berlin government as they were used to easy living with a ‘freer’ attitude to life. 

Most of the uniforms today are the style of the Prussian troops.

Some people however, also feel it’s an honour to wear the uniforms as part of the Carnival Association who welcome big donations if you want to become a member. And if you become a member, it definitely gives you contacts and means business! 

The next local carnival gig was at an old school hall called a ‘Horrem,’ held in a school gym. There was a similar set up, with many locals, families and friends gathering together earlier in the day for a hard evening of partying and entertainment. 

Generally, this tradition derives from the old German/Celtic traditions of “sweeping out the winter,” where townspeople wear traditional masks, costumes…and drink a lot!

According to my godfather: 

“The Rhineland was Catholic dominated. If you have committed a sin, you go to church, confess your sins to a priest and god will forgive you! Easy live isn´t it?

So on Wednesday, also known as ‘Ash Wednesday,’ Catholics would go to church the next morning and confess their sins for the last carnival days, and get an ash cross on their forehead by the priest. 

I remember that when I was a child, the Catholic kids went to school an hour later as they’d go to church with their families first…”

The Thursday before Ash Wednesday, there’s also a women’s day known as ‘Old wives day,’ where the women apparently take over and rule for one day only. It’s been known for women to go into work and cut off all the men’s ties to mark the occasion. As this is a fairly well-known tradition, a lot of men tend to wear the oldest ties in their closet! Now that’s what you call being Queen for a day!

The Köln carnival is like a bank holiday also as many workers get part of the week off, as it usually starts from Thursday up until Tuesday. 

Hopefully next time I’ll make the main carnival, but getting to see the pre-events was an experience!

I hope you enjoy my messy mishmash film and the pictures. 

Thanks for reading and to my godfather Olaf for all of the information. 

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