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Ever since I started being the serial expat I am today, I have missed many fun holidays in Germany. One that always makes me half-regret my decision to move abroad is KARNEVAL. Today is Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday) and, boy, do I wish I was in Cologne with family and friends, out getting drunk, and having silly fun being dressed as a devil/witch/vampire (my regular costumes). I remember the first year I wasn’t home for Karneval… I had just finished high school and moved to Egypt to spend a year there as a dive guide at the Red Sea. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fantastic year, but the weekend of Karneval I was homesick. In fact, I made somebody send me a CD with Karneval songs and blasted them through the diving center for a day or two… Much to the dismay of the unsuspecting German tourists who fled Germany’s craziest season (yes, Germans call this the fifth season) because they don’t like it. But how can you not like Karneval anyways?! I took no pity!

I have great memories from my childhood of Karneval (despite my mom always dressing me as a stupid clown with a fake balloon belly and not as the princess I of course wanted to be): School let out early on Thursday and we didn’t have to go back until Tuesday. On Sunday and Monday we would go to different Karnevalsumzuege (see the video below of what the parades can look like) and get lots of candy and sing silly songs.

In high school my girlfriends and I started celebrating Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday). It’s the day where women get to take control: Women storm city hall in many cities, get to cut men’s ties, and kiss every guy they see. How does that not sound like fun? We usually had parties at friends’ homes on Friday and Saturday and went to the parades on Sunday and Monday – these times less for the candy and more for the Kölsch (beer from Cologne). Good times! Of course we would still yell Kamelle and Struessjer (i.e., call for candy and flowers), but mainly we were there to party.

Rolf Hahn - Wikimedia Commons

One year, I took Marco with me to Germany for Karneval and he thought it was a crazy mess 🙂 I think he also thought it was fun, but he couldn’t really believe how many thousands of people go completely nuts: pretty much everybody on the streets is in full costume (if you’re not, you stick out like sore thumb), people start drinking in the morning and celebrate in the streets all day, there are Bützje (kisses on the cheek or the mouth that don’t really mean anything), and everybody sings along to German songs that are just played and sung during Karneval. I tried to teach him some and he did a pretty good job of singing along: Ich hab drei Haare auf der Brust, ich bin ein Bär…

Now hit play below and join me as I sing along to one of the most famous Karneval songs, Viva Colonia performed by De Höhner:

Kölle Alaaf!!!

… now I have to get back to work and am even more homesick after writing all this 🙁

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  • Jen says:

    Kölle Alaaf!!!

    Sending you Karnival cheer (and puke) from Cologne!!!!
    Jen recently posted..Eberbach Abbey and A Small Tribute to Bernd Eichinger

    • Sabrina says:

      Haha! Puke? Oh boy!! Have you found a nice spot to celebrate though? And a good costume? Don’t miss the Rosenmontagszug (parade on Monday) 😉

  • Yvonne says:

    Haha. Oh my. The fifth season. Yes. So glad I’m in Berlin right now and not in Cologne… yes, I’m one of those people. 🙂 But I can see that you as a real “Kölsche Mädche” missing Karneval. Alaaf!

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks for understanding 🙂 I get why people who didn’t grow up with it think it’s a little crazy though… For me it’s always been great fun.

  • Andrew says:

    What a cool explanation. They have a different name for the Thursday here. Smutzigedunstag or something like that. It is Fastnacht here as well.
    I saw a number of mostly girls in costume today with teenagers with just green hair. There could very well be parties out tonight, but I have to work tomorrow, so no fun for me. I MIGHT get to see the parade on Monday.

    BTW in a bizarre thing, the link to the youtube song at the bottom is apparently owned enough by an American company to not be available for viewing in Germany.
    Andrew recently posted..Taking Advantage of the Crossroads

    • Sabrina says:

      Is it? No way!!! I have to find a different one that works now… In the meantime, look for “Viva Colonia” by “De Hoehner” 🙂

      But yes, Fastnacht is very different from Karneval. It seems much more “traditional” to me… less drinking too…

  • Frau Dietz says:

    Hellau!! I’m gearing up for my first Mainzer Fasstnacht, been fully prepped by my husband and am raring to go. Sort of.
    Frau Dietz recently posted..Gut Food- Lentils and Spätzle with sausage

  • Laurel says:

    My German fiance is one of those people who avoid Karneval, but I’m so excited for my first Karneval so we’ve compromised by going to parades and karneval events in smaller places. I think it’s a lot of fun and great to see so many Germans being goofy.
    Laurel recently posted..Celebrating Old Womens Day in Germany

    • Sabrina says:

      I hear of these rare people who don’t like it… 😉 It’s nice of him to go with you anyways! I think if you like carnival really depends on how you celebrate it when you grow up. My family always went and almost all my friends were into it too, so I guess I never had a chance 🙂

  • Suzy says:

    This Karneval celebration sounds a lot like one I went to in Italy, in Viareggio. It was so strange to see kids and adults dressed up in the most random of costumes but it was a fun time.
    Suzy recently posted..Packing For A Month and Not Looking Like An Unmade Bed

    • Sabrina says:

      I knew they celebrated carnival in Venice, but I had no idea it was this crazy 🙂 Maybe one of these years I go to check it out. For next year I hope to be in Germany…

  • houstonbair says:

    I have to admit, I think America is missing out! I wish we had some large, national carnivals like this!

  • suzer says:

    My husband has his souvenir t-shirt from his dive in Egypt. At least you were doing something just as interesting while missing Carnivale!
    suzer recently posted..The Rest of my Life -or- Now What!

    • Sabrina says:

      Not really… I’ve been working in my office in Texas 🙂 Wish I was diving in Egypt! Where did you husband go?

  • Tijmen says:

    It looks very similar to the carnaval in Holland, but they only celebrate it in small region. Looks like fun though 🙂
    Tijmen recently posted..A Guide to Eating in West Africa

    • Sabrina says:

      It is lots of fun! Learning so much here. I had no idea it was celebrated in Holland as well 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Pit says:

    Hi Sabrina,
    Even if I’m from the Rhineland, just as you seem to be, Carnival is the one thing I don’t miss at all, me being what we’d call “Karnevalsmuffel” in German. When I was still living in Germany [Alfter near Bonn] I used to flee from Carnival whenever possible. Well, people are different, aren’t they? Or as the people in Cologne would say, “Jedde Jeck is anders.”
    Best regards from a “Carnival-free zone”,
    Pit recently posted..Was wäre Luckenbach-Texas …

    • Sabrina says:

      Yes, I’m from about 30 minutes from Cologne. Some of my friends at home are Karnevalsmuffel too 🙂 But most of them are into it. I think that’s part of why I like it so much – going with a large group of friends makes for a fun party. No Karneval in Houston either, hm?

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