Authored By:

Zoe S.

One of the most festive times of the year in Germany is Karneval, sometimes called Fasching. It dates back to pre-Roman times and falls conveniently before the fasting season of Lent in the Christian faith. In a way, Karneval is a huge celebration before the period when certain foods are fasted from for religious reasons. It’s also one of the biggest traditions in German culture to celebrate Karneval. The highlight of Karneval, Rosenmontag, is a day filled with dancers, marching bands, and float parades. People dress up in costumes and receive sweets and other items from wagons that are festively pulled through the streets. It's a bit like Halloween, but on a much larger scale. In the USA, I had never experienced anything like Karneval, and it was definitely a bit of a shock for me. I still had a lot of fun celebrating and learning about German culture!

One of the biggest parts of Rosenmontag is dressing up in costumes. There are no special rules for what you can wear; you can really wear any costume. My host sister and I got ready together, which was very exciting. There’s something so satisfying about getting ready for a special event. The entire process is like painting or making art and probably just as messy, at least for me. One second the bathroom is spotless and shining, the sink practically gleaming with cleanliness, and an hour later it looks like something exploded. There’s powder on the mirror, hairspray that fell on the floor, and three different sets of outfits that decidedly did not fit the occasion scattered everywhere. There’s so much to think about and fit together: shoes, jewelry, an appropriate bag. The whole process of getting ready is thrilling, and I don’t think I would be going too far if I said I live for it all a little. Far too many times have my dear friends had to wait on me to finish getting ready.

Karneval was really no different. Finding a costume was probably the most difficult part. After discarding dressing up as the tooth fairy or a witch, my host sister and I decided to go as elves. After a fantastic hour or so of dressing up, we were only ten minutes late to the Umzug! My host dad drove us to the next town over, and we eagerly joined the throngs of smiling, slightly drunken people standing on the sides of the road. Dozens of huge speakers all playing different music boomed from the top of the Karneval wagons. It was exceedingly pleasant; if I didn’t like the song choice, I could just move fifteen or so meters in the opposite direction of the speaker and enjoy a completely new song. The wagons drove through in circles throughout the town, throwing all types of goods from the sides of the vehicles: bags of popcorn, chips, sweets, and my personal favorite, bags of small carrots.

There are not enough words to explain how happy I was to receive the carrots. What a beautiful vegetable. They were crunchy, sweet, and kostenlos (free)! My host sister and I collected all the carrot bags we could and munched on them the entire festival. It is such a wonderful sensation to be celebrating and surrounded by German culture and at the same time eating carrots. After collecting as many carrots as we could, my host sister and I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town and admiring the brightly colored wagons. Many of my friends from school were a part of the groups celebrating from atop the wagons and throwing sweets to the crowds of people.

Later, we made a quick stop to get fries and ice cream on the way home. When we got home, it was time to clean up the small tornado of mess we’d made getting ready.

Karneval was a really lovely experience, and even just celebrating it in the small neighboring town near me, I had a lot of fun. In some larger cities like Köln, Karneval is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people with dozens of floats and wagons. Wherever you decide to celebrate Karneval, in a small or a large city, it’s sure to be a super unique and memorable experience!

Until the next of my adventures;

Ciao ciao for now, 
Zoe Schauder