I sometimes miss living in Germany… yesterday was one of those days. The Germans kick off the Karneval (or Mardi Gras) season on November 11th at 11:11am… well at least where I lived they did. The festivities really started after Christmas though. That’s when the towns in the region around Cologne would start having Kappensitzungen – those were basically drunken gatherings where groups would perform on stage… dance routines, comedic acts (in the local towns dialect)… just things that would bring about a good time.
I liked to take part in that sort of thing with my group of friends… just as an example one year we did a routine (there were probably 15 of us involved) where we sang (well lip-synced) and danced to a medley of songs from the 60’s and 70’s… another time a group of us girls dressed up as the Spice Girls and did a routine to that. The routine I remember the most though was a kid friendly strip tease to the song Hey Big Spender… I know I know it doesn’t sound possible, but it was… There were 5 or 6 girls in the routine – 1 dressed as the girl (who would then strip) the others as men (well…not really… they just had top hats on). My best friend was supposed to be the one who stripped, but we had to change everything 2 weeks before the Kappensitzung due to a death in her family. So I was the girl… Our routine and costumes were set up so that everything was dark, with the exception of a few articles of clothing – because we danced only with a black light on. So I had on black tights and a black leotard under all of the white clothes I “stripped” off… it was a huge hit!!
Well the Thursday before Fat Tuesday is called Weiberdonnerstag… translated it basically means broads Thursday… classy I know. It’s a day for the women… and then later on men. Basically no work gets done at the office. We would show up to work in costume (more like a funny and happy Halloween) and walk from office to office gathering all of the women and joking with the men. Then, once all of the women were together, we would have a champagne or mimosa breakfast with open faced sandwiches (typical over there) and just sit and gab until noon and then go out or go home (I went out). Now the thing that the men knew was not to wear a tie to work (well some of them wore old cruddy ones), because the tradition was that the women were allowed to cute off any ties that the men were wearing. Lord we had a blast. Some towns would have breakfast shows for the women who either didn’t or didn’t want to go to work, and the city of Cologne was just a sea of women (that was the place to go if you were really daring… and I was once or twice) Later on in the evening the men would take part in the festivities… This was the real kick off to the week of Karneval.
There would be more partying over the weekend as each town did its own thing. Most towns would have a parade of some sort. I took part in that too. Floats were built by some groups, while others just walked on foot. Everyone was dressed up in costumes… even many of the people standing by the side of the road watching were dressed up somehow. We would pass out candy to the kids and shots to the adults… the parade that I would take part in was maybe a mile long, but I hardly ever was sober at the end of it… many times you would do a shot with the person you were giving one to, not to mention we always had something on the float too (I had introduced the girls to Fuzzy Navels, so that was our drink of choice). After the parade everyone gathered at the tent in the town square for food, drinks and dancing. It was a blast… and there you have it- I was once a lush…
I don’t think I could do it anymore though… not the way I did 10 years ago… heck even 5 or 6 years ago. I haven’t really had any alcohol in well over a year, what with being pregnant and now nursing. It’s fun to look back and remember though. Some years were more fun than others… due to Ash Wednesday never falling on the same day year after year, there were some years where my Oma (my grandmother) or cousins would celebrate their birthday during Karneval. Oma would have a blast and be the life of the party. I know that she was out yesterday, celebrating with her friends alongside my aunts and cousins.
I have pictures, but they’re from a camera that used film… and I don’t have them scanned into my computer…. that’s a whole other list of things to do