I've been amazed at how many hits my blog gets due to people asking of Google "Rosenmontag, is it a holiday?"
So for Rosenmontag (today) I thought I should try to explain how this particular Monday** impacts on this particular area. You see Karneval isn't a countrywide 'celebration', but it is certainly a serious business here in the Düsseldorf/Köln area.
The whole Karneval thing kicks off in November sometime then dies down throughout December and January until the period of Lent draws near and the Thursday before Ash Wednesday*** is "Weiberfastnacht" or Ladies Day.
This should not be mistaken for Ladies Day at Ascot or Wimbledon, where ladies also dress up but I think the style of dressing up and the quality of the makeup differs drastically. Weiberfastnacht is when the women rise up and take power (I don't know why, maybe next year I'll find out for you) they basically run amok, cutting off men's ties (most men wear cheap ties or no ties at all that day) spraying their hair and then going off partying. Safer to stay indoors with the dead bolts on.
Friday the children tend to do their own Karneval thing at school, costumes, sweets, loud muzak and most importantly no lessons and no homework.
Saturday and Sunday there are Karneval parties, costumes are worn and much alcohol is consumed and much enforced jolity ensues. On Sunday afternoon there are often smaller children's Karneval processions. There used to be one here in Kettwig but this year the law has changed and insurance is required in order to throw Kamelle**** and so there is no local Karneval Zug - not a bad thing as I don't particularly enjoy standing in the freezing cold for an hour or so in order for my children to beg for sweets that they probably wont like.
Monday is Rosenmontag, the day for the big processions in the cities like Düsseldorf and Köln. It is a sort of 'bank holiday' (not that that term really exists here) most people are off work all day, but the shops are open until 2pm. The people who take Karneval seriously will get themselves all dressed up in order to go and watch the processions of other people all dressed up and the world becomes quite a bizarre place for a couple of days, people wandering around the streets dressed as anything from a six foot bee to a five foot toadstool and then there are the circuses of clowns, the rodeos of cowboys and the covens of witches and seriously, that's just the adults...
The rest of us, those who don't do Karneval, either lay low and take the day without work/school/any schedule as a freebie, or flee the country. You think I'm kidding? Both my German teacher and Jas's have left the country, they wont admit to actively disliking Karneval (afterall they are German and to do so would be disloyal) but rather than be seen to be not joining in the enforced "Helau"ing they vacate the country.
So to answer the question, "is Rosenmontag a holiday?"
Yes and no.
A nice grey answer for a specific question. Sorry!
Word for the day; der Zug - train/procession/puff/gulp/trait (another word for my hate list methinks.)
* or to a Brit, the day before Pancake Day.
** funny how Rosenmontag is a Monday and not a Tuesday isn't it? (inside joke, sorry. Shame the recipient is on holiday.)
*** I can't give a specific date because it's different every year. Apparently Lent starts 46 days before Easter Sunday, and Easter Sunday is determined by the date of the 'pascal' full moon...bonkers.
**** Kamelle = sweets, popcorn etc.