Eleven minutes past the 11th hour on the 11th of November officially marks the beginning of the carnival season in Germany.
But it isn’t until February when the celebrations truly hit their peak, with elaborate citywide displays of color, costumes and music.
The history of Carnival can be traced back to Germanic tribes celebrating the return of daylight and warmth after the long winter months.
As Christianity took root in the region, the celebrations continued prior to Lent, the period of fasting before Easter. The first modern parade took place in Cologne in 1823.
Many areas of the predominately Roman Catholic Rhineland – including the larger cities of Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Aachen and Mainz – proudly claim their own distinct version of the event, known as the “Rheinische” Carnival.
The week is famously punctuated by exuberant all-night parties, eye-catching attire and dancing.
But arguably one of the most anticipated days every year is Rosenmontag, or Rose Monday, which is always celebrated on the Shrove Monday before Ash Wednesday.
Thousands of people line the streets in the cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf to catch a glimpse of the most famous Fasching parades and floats.
Pushing the boundaries
Political satire has become something of a traditional theme for many of the floats. Every year the master float builders leave people guessing about which powerful figures they’ll be taking aim at with their papier-mache creations.
Seemingly no topic is off limits; previous targets have included Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Un and the Catholic Church.
Unsurprisingly, typically unflattering and sometimes controversial displays occasionally draw attention outside of Germany. In 2016 a float depicting the screaming head of then-candidate Donald Trump with the words “Make fascism great again” made headlines in the United States.
No prizes for guessing that he’ll feature again this year.
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