Friday, November 11, 2005

ship of fools

(What? MORE stuff happens on November 11? I know. It's exhausting, isn't it? Bear with me.)

On November 11 at precisely 11:11 a.m. (am elften elften um elf Uhr elf as the Germans would say) the carnival season in Germany begins and continues on until Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Depending on where you live, your celebrations might be called Karneval, Fasching or Fastnacht. Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz are some of the strongholds of Karneval, so if you're in those cities you're bound to get an eyeful. There are costume parties, parades and conventions all over the place at this time of year.

I had always assumed that the word Karneval originated with the Latin 'carne vale' - bidding adieu to meat , but I found that this hasn't been proven to be entirely correct. There was also the term 'carnelevale (or levare)', used in the Middle Ages to mean 'a taking away of the flesh' or literally dispensing with worldly, bodily concerns and focusing on the spiritual during Lent. And last but not least, Karneval may possibly have its origins in the 'carrus navalis', a Roman, pre-Christian ship on wheels used during the festival of Saturnalia.

The carnival season is often referred to as die neckische or närrische Zeit - the playful, whimsical, foolish time, or die fünfte Jahreszeit - the fifth season, a time to celebrate, get dressed up in costume and be someone else for a while.

And boy, do the Germans do this well. In fact, I think a lot of them use this as yet another opportunity (see also Schützenfest and Oktoberfest) to get really drunk, disguise themselves and exchange bodily fluids with perfect strangers. Things don't get that wild where we live, but if you watch the carnival in Cologne on TV you'll see what I mean.

So that's enough about November 11 in Germany. In early spring when Karneval is almost over, I'll be telling you about a day when it's perfectly acceptable for a women to cut off a man's necktie. Really.

What a crazy country. Don't you wish you lived here?


At November 11, 2005 7:29 p.m., Anonymous Garnet said...

HAHAHA! I love cultural traditions around the world! They are so complex and usually quite fun! And I also am a big fan of all things numbers the same. Like 11/11 11:11. 5:55 is my favorite time of day. Or 3:33! Hehe

Have a great weekend!

At November 11, 2005 7:41 p.m., Blogger Homer said...

Tell us about Straw Peter! My boss once unkindly said I looked like him on account of my big hair and long nails. I understand him to be a mythical baddy who comes after children who suck their thumbs?

At November 11, 2005 8:15 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Garnet - yeah, those kind of repeating numbers are really popular in Germany.

Homer - Struwelpeter with the wild hair and nails! I don't know all that much about him but I can find out.

At November 12, 2005 3:26 a.m., Blogger melusina said...

Wow, 5 months of Carnival! They have two weeks here in Greece and I thought that was alot. How fun though - and nice candy score from the kiddies!

At November 12, 2005 9:08 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I can't believe they would celebrate for so long. I definitely loved seeing Fasnacht in Switzerland. The first time I was walking along in early 2003, I was stunned. Because nobody told me about this and then suddenly we came out of a restaurant to see a parade. If I could have only had someone filming my reaction... The next year was great for me since I knew what was going on. I'm fascinated by all of the costumes.

At November 14, 2005 12:57 p.m., Blogger Prairie Girl said...

What a surprise Christina, to find this photo you've included here. And that's because I've posted several photos of *exactly* the same little guy. You can see one of them here (a dumb idea that I never pursued):

The Thing of the Moment

Too weird. LOL!


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