Karneval for Dummies : A Satire

Karneval for Dummies : A Satire 

I will preface with I don’t understand Karneval one bit. I am a lonely expat housewife who does whatever my German husband, his family and Integration teachers say. If they tell me to dress up in costume on whatever day I’ll do it. But I really don’t know why I am there year after year. What I have come to realize is I can use this time to be out of character and make a shitton of excuses for my behavior. I use the mantra “It is Karneval and I was drunk” a lot and it’s accepted by all including Germans. So with that one incentive I will participate even though I don’t know what I’m actually doing. I believe the whole thing is supposed to be in line with Medieval traditions, Easter & Lent and just having an excuse to let ones hair down. I have been told the jesters came to feast and dance for the Queen so hence the clown and jester motif throughout the city. I have also been told its just like Mardi Gras although there are different celebratory dates and traditions. And Mardi Gras is basically a way to be indulgent before Lent so there is a similar religious aspect. But the most important thing I have observed is getting a costume. 

Get a proper costume. A few. And I may be telling you this way too late for 2020. Do your best.

Karneval entails many parties, get togethers, introductions, parades and contests. So you need to try to mix up your costume for all or have different costumes for each event. You will need something extremely flexible and warm as a lot of events will go from indoors to outdoors multiple times. You will probably walk a lot from different points of interests so incorporate proper shoes. Be prepared to pee all over the city with little to no accommodations so don’t do onesies or bodysuits if you can help it. No one will tell you that Karneval is not Halloween. All the costumes will range somewhere dangerously in between. It is entirely up to you to decipher if you are meeting the standard for appropriate Karneval attire. I would highly suggest Pinterest or all the various outdated Stadt website links. You will find images of various drunk people donning what was deemed appropriate at the time. I’ve found that dressing like a celebrity or character will straddle the line well. But if you have a reputation and or social life here are some popular themed ideas and I am not mentioning men or children because I mean they are all clowns jeden tag...

The Jeck/The Jester
A striped red & white whatever with a rainbow tutu, a fashion color wig, clown red cheeks, red lippy and you yell a lot

The H&M
Just buy whatever silly all in one chicken or unicorn thing they are selling and yell a lot

The GoGo
Pair neon and white underpinnings with glitter, crappy accessories and star and or heart stickers and yell while you dance off beat

Festival Bohemian Egal
Put on a regular outfit and pair it with a flower crown, fun colored knee high socks and Birkenstock’s or Converses and yell a lot while remaining vapid

The Funny Girl
Wear an actual costume like Minnie Mouse or a Cowgirl and use props to deflect from the fact that you spent 80€ plus on a costume rather than dressed up like a slut or a VSCO girl ... use said props to make noise that harmonizes with the siren sounds of all the sluts around you all dressed like flower children, dinosaurs and harlequins 

If all else fails just go to Primark and Tiger in Neumarkt to create something out of markdowns and red dots i.e. a fairy or the sun or a random girl head to fucking toe in fast fashion clearance but please for the sake of the real Germans don’t be a zombie because that’s just too October 31st not Karneval. There will be people in very expensive, custom made costumes that border somewhere between the Marque de Sade and Pirates of the Caribbean. These are the people that really know what is going on. They throw the parties with the long tables for feasting like the good ole guillotine days. They aren’t standing on the corner on Rosenmontag having the last döner in a pile of piss & vomit soaked streamers. No, these are the blue blooded types that are doing real Karneval shit and eating roasted goose whilst shouting Kölle Alaaf. You are the throngs they seldom associate with in real life aka The Jecken. You all are supposed to hate each other or at least pretend to be on the same page when at a bar. Just don't forget the words you are supposed to be yelling.

Oh the words...

When the parades and parties commence there will be Kölsch spoken. It is the ancient language of Köln and it sounds sort of like Latin. The Omas and Opas really get into this but in order for you to follow along you will need to know certain terms. People will yell "Kölle Alaaf" repeatedly and no I do not know what that means. It is usually accompanied with a hand gesture similar to a concert wave. Be careful in this as I have been trying to partake and did an offensive salute. Don't do that... ever. You also do not want to yell this at a Karneval celebration elsewhere in Germany because this is for Köln events only. "Karmelle" and "Strüssjer" is an enthusiastic request for candy and flowers. Imagine this is like yelling "Beads" at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Mindlessly yelling these terms at a Karneval parade will get you showered in assorted bon bons, chocolate, granola bars and assorted single stems of tulips, roses and lilies. Beware of the occasional flying plastic noisemaker, bottle of schnapps or deluxe package of snack cakes. I have been hit in the eye by a delicious package of German HosHos and it was not pretty. The gratis items will be thrown regardless of your participation or interest. It is best to move forward if you want to access the good stuff like Haribo gummies or promotional things like keychains. If you are drunk and over it just keep your bag open and things should land in it. But if you don't want to be showered with crap, pummeled by others or involved in the meaningless exchange of yelling for snacks please just stay home. 

If you are at a more traditional event there may be a presenting of "The Dreigestirn". This is sort of the appointed prom court for all of Kölner Karneval. This king, queen and princess are represented by men dressed in elaborate costume. The three of them will give multiple speeches throughout the event. There is a name for that but frankly all of the talk is in Kölsch and you will be too drunk to care. There is a sort of high honor of being able to see them and it all very regal and full of pomp. A show may also be apart of it where they dance, play instruments and or have other dance troupes perform insane acrobatic routines to entertain the masses. All of this is done with blaring Karneval music playing in the background. The music is a horrible mash up of 90s style electronic dance music and obnoxiously happy vocals. Over a short amount of time you will learn the lyrics to these songs and begin to loudly sing them to your event or parade neighbor. Do not be alarmed if a complete stranger links arms with you and encourages you to dance a lil medieval jig. Just act as if you know how to "Riverdance" until they grow tired of your shuffling. Sooner or later you will get hungry and there are so many special things that are only around this particular time of the year. 

There will be brötchen and Mett. Mett being the shaped pile of raw pork covered in diced onions. You will be expected to pause for open faced bread splattered with it. I always decline as it ain't really carpaccio. There will be options like Halverhand and Frikadelle. I'll assume the use of these sammies is so you can eat and move. The Berliner will be plentiful this time of year with a lot more fillings than just strawberry. I am quite fond of the lime and apple ones they sell near my house. Of course Kölsch is the official drink of the festivities unless celebrating Karneval somewhere else. If preparing for an official event at a Germans home there may be an all out spread of traditional German foods like potato salad, wurst, chocolates and other finger foods. You may of course bring something but do not bring anything like American party meatballs, a charcuterie platter or a cake. Most of the offerings will be served cold, left out for hours and meant for light noshing not a sit down meal. Everything will be transportable as the party will begin at home and be taken to the streets for the majority of important Karneval days. So there is a Fat Thursday. Theres a Women's Day where women can randomly kiss men and cut their ties off with scissors. There are parades all the time but the televised one with the big political floats is on Rosenmontag. The close of Karneval will be the beginning of Lent so be wary of ash crossed foreheads on Wednesday. Thankfully, the city is really good about cleaning up the carnage so that we all can move into Easter cleansed and saved. But for the week of events the streets are teeming with plastic cups, mini bottles, glass, glitter and barf. You do not want to be out in the university areas after dark if you can help it. Also a lot of businesses will close early or for multiple days to prevent destruction to their properties. You will see Rewe's boarding up and bars advertising 2€ public restroom use to keep unsavories at bay. Also all the homeless will be competing with you for the free snacks and endless pfand. Just give them whatever you have. Police and first responders will be everywhere as well as KVB employees. Don't worry about kontrolle as most of them are partying with you and a lot of costs will be suspended on peak days. But be mindful that trains and buses will be full to capacity therefore late or cancelled. Also in some areas stops will be completely relocated for various parades and you may have to walk great distances to get from point a to b. What a time to be alive walking seven kilometers in a panda head with a Aldis bag full of nonsense your teeth doesn't need! Kölle Alaaf! Dun Dun!

P.S. Stock your pantry days prior, stay hydrated with actual water and do not I repeat do not walk inside your place with those filthy Karneval shoes on. The horror.