Monday, February 15, 2010

Rosamontag & Karneval

Today is Rosamontag here in Germany, it's a kind of bank holiday in that all offices and schools are shut but some of the shops are open although only until 1pm. Quite bizarre, normally if it's a bank holiday EVERYTHING is shut (except for the bakers of course & cafe's & restaurants, oh and the buses and trains all run too...) but the thing is that bank holidays are considered to be 'family time' so you can't go shopping and all the silly quiet rules apply too - no hovering, DIY or mowing the lawn (can't see the damn lawn at the moment, it's under about 3 inches of snow)

Anyway, Rosamontag, the final day of the Karneval season here (which started at 11.11am on November 11th - the Germans insist everything to do with Karneval starts at a 'whacky' time, afterall, Karneval is the time for enforced jollity) there are lots of parades in the area - those in Düsseldorf and Köln are probably the largest and most well known. The parades last for hours
and in order to get a good place to watch the parade you have to get there early, afterall it's not just about watching the spectacle, it's also about the sweeties - the people involved in the parade whether they're walking alongside or actually on the floats constantly bombard the spectators with sweets, bags of popcorn and small toys - it becomes quite a competition between the children to see who can collect the most. And it's not just the people in the parade who dress up either, the majority of those who go to watch are dressed up to some extent - they take having fun very seriously here. And I don't mean they wear a funny hat or a bit of face paint, oh no. Our neighbours for example, last year went to the Düsseldorf Zug dressed as bears (head to toe fake fur outfits - not a bad idea when you consider that today the temperature is -1) the year before they were all mushrooms (the pretty ones, red topped with white spots, not ugly flat topped brown field mushrooms clearly) and I've also seen them in bumble bee outfits, like I said, they take it seriously.

Kettwig has its own little Karneval parade on the Sunday before the big ones, so that was yesterday. We'd planned to go (that is Jas & I had planned to go, Ben at 12 is too cool to be seen to be enjoying himself and Si had an invite to a football game) the Zug was from 2pm, yesterday it snowed all day, snow on top of snow and I informed Jas that there was no way she would be allowed to scrabble in the mud and slush for sweets (having just recovered from a serious bout of gastroenteritius, it seemed like a sensible precaution) so we decided to stay home and watch a film instead (with a family sized bag of maltesers (thanks mom) for company) with the proviso that I would buy her the equivalent amount of sweets that she could have got from the Karneval, except that these would be sweets of her choice.

Is this a sign of how little we've integrated into German society? That we refuse to stand in the freezing cold for 2 hours to try in vain to catch sweets that we don't particularly like? I just like to think that we're intelligent people, able to pick and choose which aspects of this society we want to get involved with and not feel the need to follow the herd - especially if it involves dressing up like a vegetable and standing around in sub zero temperatures.

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