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German Carnival Traditions

A rift goes through Germany – a major cultural as well as geographical rift, albeit a subtle one.

The topic causing this rift is Carnival, and while the eyes of inhabitants of Cologne as well as Baden-Wurttemberg tend to lighten up when talking about it, those of us living in Berlin or Frankfurt often shake their heads due to lack of comprehension. Let us have a closer look at what this fuzz is all about.

Carnival, also known as "Fastnacht", "Fasnet" or "Fasching", is an annual celebration in Germany, particularly popular in the regions of Cologne and Baden-Wurttemberg. The festivities usually take place in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday and consist of a series of events such as parades, costume parties, and street parties. 

In Cologne, carnival is particularly famous for its large parades, taking place both on Saturday and on Rose Monday, where thousands of people in costumes and masks march through the streets accompanied by huge colorful floats and attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators. A popular tradition in Cologne is "Kamellewerfen" (throwing of caramel candy), where participants of the parade throw small gifts such as candy and confetti to the crowd, much to the joy of especially the children. Carnival in Cologne, often called „the fifth season“, has a significant impact on everyday life in the city. Many businesses, schools, and offices (including law firms, notaries and even courts!) close for the duration of the carnival season, allowing residents to fully participate in the festivities. Another impact of carnival on everyday life in Cologne is the economic boost it brings to the city. The carnival season is a major tourist attraction and generates significant revenue for the local economy through hotel bookings, food and drink sales, and other related activities.

Carnival in Cologne is a cherished tradition that plays a significant role in shaping the city's culture and daily life, bringing people together and fostering a sense of community.

In Baden-Wurttemberg, "Fasnet" is particularly popular in cities like Rottweil with its famous "Narrensprung" ("fool's jump") and other cities in Southern Black Forest having their own "Fastnachtslaufen" ("carnival walk"). These parades and carnival parties are also accompanied by music, dancing, and celebrations where participants in traditional masks and costumes considered to be centuries old run through the streets and distribute sweets and other gifts to the crowd. The tradition is considered to have its roots in medieval times, when people would celebrate the end of winter and the start of spring. 

Overall, carnival in Germany is a joyful and lively celebration, seen by many as a welcome break from everyday life. Although the festivities in Cologne and Baden-Wurttemberg are the most well-known, there are also carnival celebrations in other parts of Germany worth visiting.

So if you get invited to join German business colleagues for Carnival celebrations, just go for it and enjoy your time!


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