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?