Karneval: the fifth season, the time of craziness, the time of celebration. Whatever people may call it, it is definitely a special time of year in Germany. Some people and places celebrate it much more extravagantly than others, but no matter where you are, you're sure to find some means of celebration. Everything during this carnival season is, in my opinion, especially crafted to make it unique and fun.
The week of Carnival:
My original thought was that Carnival would be a one-day event, but, similar to this year's Christmas, I was suprised with not one day but six days of celebration. It is normally about a week long with some parties, events, or performances on each day. It ends on ash Wednesday and the Monday before is known as 'Rosenmontag'. Some places like Bayern even have a name for a specific event that they call 'Fasching'. In fact, most regions have a specific name for their type of celebration. For me, however, my carnival celebrations began in the school with a grade level costume contest followed with a dance-off and conga line with the every student through the school building. The following days were then celebrated with parades, festivals, performances, and lots of little traditions. (Helau!)
It was a delightful shock to find the adults putting everything they had into their costumes. There were wigs, hair accessories, glittery makeup, ball gowns, skirts or headresses a meter length in diameter. You could go as something in particular or thow on every wacky thing in your closet with some makeup to match; there are truly no rules (I even saw someone dress up as a lamp). It was awesome. I went to a local 'costume ball' where each group put together costumes and made a short entrance coreography. There were people dressed as glowing light bulbs, giant home-made rainbows, rubix cubes, and mouses with cheese dresses. Some groups even threw candy or shot confetti. But I soon found out that no matter what type of celebration you're attending, it's always appropriate to wear a costume.
I was amazed at just how much candy and other random objects were thrown off these ten to fifteen feet tall wagons. These wagons were huge and decorated perfectly to fit each of their themes. There was an airplane, a pirate ship, a camel (equiped with genies), and so much more. In my town, there is a king and queen of Carnival each year with a kid prince and princess to match. The kids sat atop a lovely 'tiger-duck' creature that could easily be the same height as the bottom shingle of the roof of my house. On the ground with each float were two or three costumed people offering shots of liquor to the adults along the streets while candy rained down from the floats for the kids to collect.
From the dances, to the jokes, skits, and music everything has a specific type of mood. The best comparison for me was to that of a circus. The skits and jokes were that which a clown would make, with the background slide whistles and drumset in the background to match. The dances were dazzling and trick based with unique, sparkling uniforms. And the general atmosphere could be described as loud, roudy, and filled with laughter. A skit could be between two people silent or not, one person telling a story or listing off jokes, they could be immature or political based, ryhming or not; once again there are no rules, as long as it is unique, extravagant, and intended to bring people joy.