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Karneval was in full swing here, near Cologne, Germany, exactly one week ago. This was a big weekend for partying where every town and hamlet in our region held their own Karneval parade to celebrate. My husband Thomas, a native of the Cologne area, our two year old daughter Anna and I attended two of the many parades that were happening in our area this past week.

Anna dressed as a pig

Anna and her "T-Kathi"

Anna and Thomas playing "Peek-a-Boo"

Anna and me

The parade starts with droves of dressed up people arriving early on the parade path, crowding the sidewalks and overflowing into the streets, trying to get a good spot for the upcoming attraction. It is cold out, but luckily not so cold that it isn’t possible to be outside for hours at a time, and the grouping of so many people concentrated in one spot at one time along the parade routes actually insulates the area to a cozy warmth that makes it cheerful to be outside in the cold air of late winter.

The crowds are milling about before the parade

Upon reflection there seems to be a few consistent things that go on at these events:

1) People come dressed in outrageous costumes that are reminiscent of a circus or of Halloween: colorful costumes that range from clowns and cartoon characters to all types of animals, and ethnic groups and even those dressed up as faux-Mexicans, Eskimos or even Native Americans with painted faces and wildly colored outfits.

Kids get ready to catch candy or "Kamelle" with a painted goal made from bed sheets

The parade begins!

2) Massive amounts of beer drinking goes on not only in the crowd but also amongst the parade’s participants!

3) And for the kids (and many of the adults too) candy is fought volleyed for almost as if it were an Olympic sport as people in the crowd push and scramble to catch the candy that’s thrown at them, in mass quantities, from the atop the floats and from the people marching by.

Single wrapped flowers, small toys and chocolates are also handed out along the way and kids go home with sacks full of little plastic toys and enough sweets to put them on a sugar high that should last them until next years Karneval season.

Lady Bugs/ Mice?




Patchwork People??



4) There is a lot of loud Karneval music coming from the floats as they drive by,

And from the numerous marching bands in the parade

As well as from the people in the crowd as they sing for candy and flowers to be thrown at them.

Spirits are high, not just from the copious amount of drinking that’s going on publicly but because this is an extended holiday weekend where friends and families who have off from work are reunited and are joining up for a fun time, a time to be silly, to wear funny costumes, a time to make jokes and talk about Karneval seasons past and the spirit in the air all at once becomes contagious and affects even to the most reserved and lowly among the crowd.

Every one is talking and milling about, eating candy and admiring the more thoughtful and exceptional costumes that stand out in this band of cheerful merrymakers and there is a general loftiness that’s hard to describe except that everyone seems more vibrant, voices carry higher and the spirit of joyfulness in the air which is exuded from this shroud of people, resonates out and into the lonely places drawing in the outsiders and the invalids, calling out to the shut-ins and the undesirables, bringing everyone together as one.

Anna and Thomas eating a piece of chocolate

Happy Karneval 2012, oh and “Kölle Allaaf”!