Carnival, the "fifth season of the year", begins on November 11th at 11:11 a.m. But the real "crazy days" do not start before the so-called Weiberfastnacht (Shrove Thursday), the Thursday before Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). The "crazy days" of Carnival are celebrated with parties on the streets, in public squares and in pubs.
11 is the figure of Carnival – and here you will find eleven questions and answers about our colorful traditions:
- What’s Carnival?
Carnival, as we celebrate it today, is strongly related to Christianity. Right before the fasting period before Easter, people play a topsy-turvy world. The crazy days feature parties and colorful costumes.
- Why do the Rhenish so much love their feeling of Carnival?
Carnival is about shifting borders, about becoming someone different by dressing up. Singing, partying, sharing a special attitude towards life! This spirit, however, is not limited to the natural-born Rhenish – everybody is invited to join in! Under the fool’s cap we are all the same.
- Isch saach nur Alaaf... I just say Alaaf …
Alaaf is the salute and greeting of jesters and Carnival revelers in Bonn. The origin and meaning of this word is not a hundred percent clear, but probably derives from ‘long live’. So, three times Bonn Alaaf!
- ... and sometimes I shout for KAMELLE!
Shouting KAMELLE is highly recommended for the parades in our districts and explicitly during our parade on Rose Monday (24 February)! Kamelle means candies and sweets. Traditionally, caramel candies were thrown by the paraders or from the fleets. Those preferring flower over candy should shout “Strüssje” instead and catch their little bunch of spring flowers.
- Who are the symbol figures of Carnival?
The guy with tights and feathers on his cap is Prince Carnival (Richard I). His beautiful companion, however, is not a Princess, as one could have guessed. The lady is referred to as ‘Bonna’ (Katharina III) around here, name of the Roman garrison that our home city was founded by a long time ago.
- Carnival and politics – how to make fun of authorities
Mockery and satire play a major role in Carnival. Prussian occupants in 19th century prohibited Carnival several times. However, the Rhenish could not be detracted from celebrating. Carnival is THE occasion to talk about politics and social issues and is characterized by exaggerated and satirizing comments to this day.
- Carnival takes over: Conquering the Town Hall
During Carnival, Prince and the Bonna become the regents of city and administration. As a symbol for this takeover of power, the Carnevalistic troops traditionally storm the Old Town Hall on our Market Square and win the symbolic, big key of the city. This happens on the Sunday before Rose Monday and is really a spectacle to watch!
- What’s a Viedelszooch?
In an early tradition, Carnival revelers paraded through their districts (Viedel). It was about meeting friends, walking around the neighborhood, knocking at the doors and inviting others to join the party. This tradition has lasted until today. It is not about beautiful, expensive fleets or lots of candy, but about meeting friends, laughing and partying. Everybody can be part of it – that is what makes it charming and special!
- Why do Carnival fleets have a motto?
Besides the fleets of the traditional Carnival associations, the parades feature motto fleets. In a creative manner, the artists draw our attention to political issues or prominent persons in public life. Carnival is an open space for opinions … even for those held behind in our daily life.
- Who are the people in the guard uniforms?
During Prussian occupancy, the occupants tried to intimidate the local citizens with military parades. The Rhenish reacted in their usual way: they made fun of the parades. They put on the historical uniforms and started parading themselves. This was the offspring of many different Carnival groups and associations that make our celebrations so colorful to this day.
- Thursday, Women’s Carnival – Wieverfastelovend
This very special holiday originates from Beuel. Although early Carnival was open only to men, the washer women in Beuel revolted and started their own celebration of Carnival called Wieverfastelovend. An advice to men: please refrain from wearing expensive ties on that day. In our modern times, the custom of cutting and collecting ties as a tribute to women’s liberation has spread from Bonn to other hotspots of Carnival.
Three times Alaaf!
Enjoy a great Carnival Season in Bonn!