Thursday, February 14, 2008


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I think I jinxed us with my post about our beautiful weather. The sun never came out today. According to the weather website I check it should be like this tomorrow as well but then beautiful on the weekend.

It is a bit strange to talk about the weather on a blog post. But I find that once you actually have weather you end up talking about it. I suppose we shall have no end of conversation topics once we move to Indiana this summer.

The gray skies today made me think about the festivals that are held throughout the winter months, trying to warm us up and bring color into our lives. We just finished with Karneval, here in the Rheinland area of Germany. There were too many pictures to post on the blog so I am providing links to two Picassa web albums. I think you will be impressed with the amount of color involved in the 6 day festival.

Karneval starts in November (11/11 at 11:11) but other than a kick-off event, most of the Karneval events are held in private residences. It really starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. We were still in Utrecht at the time of the official start (11:11 of course) but we traveled back to Bonn that evening, changing trains in Köln. We were possibly the only people on the train not in costume.

On Sunday, the people of Bonn stormed the Rathaus (see photos here). After being turned away several times and returning with more and more soldiers, the prinzenpaar (royal couple) finally succeeded in winning the keys to the city until Wednesday when all would return to normal.

On Monday, we went to Köln to see the huge Rosenmontagzug (see photos of Monday's parade here). It was extremely cold and it rained off and on while we were there. We watched about 2 hours of the parade and then I asked someone how long the parade lasts ... 5 hours or so was the answer. Arlo and I decided that we were cold and hungry enough to be satisfied with what we had already seen. All through the parade, people throw things into the crowds. We came home with a large bag of candy, a small stuffed Karneval clown and several flowers. (No roses even though it was Rose Monday ... I got tulips and a carnation).

We've discussed Karneval at length in my language class. I learned that this is, historically speaking, a time when a person could say anything they wanted without fear of recrimination. This explains the predominance of politically motivated floats in the parade.

During my last language class, we had a debate as to whether Karnaval is good or bad. On the negative side, were arguments about the excessive alcohol consumption and the greediness of people when it came to gathering the throws from the parades (to the exclusion of looking out for children), the amount of trash that is on the streets during this time period and the extra workers needed to police the streets and man the hospitals, and the lack of meaning of the festival seeing it only as an excuse to exhibit behaviors that would be otherwise socially unacceptable.

I couldn't help but see this as a "Bah Humbug!" argument. There seems to be a similar argument regarding all of our winter holidays: Thanksgiving is just about food, Christmas is too commercialized, Valentines Day is a "Hallmark Holiday." I've been reflecting on this a lot and I think that we get out of any holiday or celebration what we put into it. I hear people talking about the commercialization of Christmas and, after having it explained to me, I can see what they are talking about. But somehow it doesn't affect me. I enjoy putting myself out there for people and I get a lot of reward. I saw the same in the German people at Karneval. These rather stoic and reserved people were friendly and outgoing to an outsider (me).


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Karen's Monsters said...

Wow. Those pictures are amazing. I'm not sure what I expected, but it doesn't look like any carnival that I've been to. I think the second link isn't working however.