It is a quiet and normal day at the St. Joseph Secondary School in Ballybunion. At first nothing seems out of the ordinary; that is until you see a panda running through the hallway! Fear not however, it’s only the German teaching assistant; she sings loud songs in the classroom with her students, dances and throws candy at them. Even the staff members are confused and do not know why she is in costume today, but her students already know it. The Germans celebrate the Cologne Carnival at the moment – the biggest festival in the Rhineland!
The Cologne Carnival has a long tradition in Germany. It is the last festival before Lent, the period in which it was not allowed to eat meat, fat, milk or cheese. So naturally before going into difficult time they had to have one last celebration before fasting. Carnival (or as the Germans call it “the fifth season”) – begins at the 11th of November at 11.11am. On the Thursday before the beginning of Lent the foolish people receive the key of the city and will rule until the following Tuesday during this time in Cologne rules an “exceptional-state“ (Ausnahmezustand).
The people wear elaborate costumes and people who do not get into the Carnival spirit by choice may be costumed against their will!
The highlight of the Carnival in Cologne is the „Rosenmontagszug“. This parade lasts 6 hours and over 1,000,000 people come to see it every year while they dance and sing loudly to the music. Homemade floats drive through the streets – often decorated with political banners. From the top of these floats men, women and children throw altogether 150 tons of candy into the crowd. However
you can only receive candy if you know the „Cologne battle cry“: “Kölle, Alaaf!” (long live cologne).
But when in cologne you must also take care – and never say the battle cry of Düsseldorf “Helau” … because then they could throw old candy directly to your head. So in conclusion, it does not take much to experience the Cologne carnival: cheerfulness, a funny
costume, a bag for your sweets and an umbrella – not because it might rain – no! But to protect your head from the shower of candy thrown from the parade!