by Samer Rihani
Every year on November 11th at 11:11 a.m., the Cologne Carnival – also known as the “fifth Season” – takes place. It is the starting point of the festive season in North-Rhine -Westphalia’s largest city, but the actual “crazy days” of the street carnival begin on “Weiberfastnacht” and go on till “Aschermittwoch” and “Rosenmontag”. In between, the “crazy days” are at their best.
The “crazy days” consist of parades, balls, and floats that feature “Jecken” (carnival participants) dressed in colorful tailored costumes. Throughout the entire carnival, these fun seekers greet one another with the word “Alaaf”. One tradition is for women to cut off the necktie of any man who happens to be wearing one – and the best part is that it is actually legal for them to do so; after all. “Weiberfastnacht” is women’s day! Yet another custom that presumably everyone is excited about is the random distribution of “Kamelle” (sweets, candy, caramels, etc.) and throwing flowers in the air – which fall into the hands of the “Jecken”.
The “Dreigestirn” is a triumvirate that consists of Jungfrau, Prinz, and Bauer” (virgin, prince, and farmer). These symbolic figures date back to the 18th century and each represents a character or cause. The Prinz, also known as “His Madness”, is the most important person of the carnival. The “Jungfrau” symbolizes the mother Colonia, and the role is always portrayed by a man. The “Bauer” represents the agricultural history of Cologne; he carries a sword that symbolizes his loyalty to the empire. Every year, three people are elected to portray these characters by wearing medieval costumes and leading their own floats through the streets of Cologne. The “Dreigestirn” is the highlight of the major parade that takes place on “Rosenmontag”, at which approximately one million people await the trio’s appearance.
The Cologne Carnival is one of the biggest carnivals in the world; if you have never been there as a “Jeck”, you have already missed a lot! Do not miss the” fifth Season” … If you are already a “Jeck”, you will definitely do your best to be there!