Dusseldorf Gone Wild
March 22, 2014
Germany is cold and dark and the days are very short during the winter months. Unlike Portland Maine for instance (Richard's hometown) where it snows a lot but the sun shines on a regular basis, the days have been short, cold, and dark for the most part since we've been here. It's taken some getting used to and I now have a better understanding of my oldest son Arron’s experience of living in Vancouver BC. He’s known to dash out of cafés to stand on the side walk face up if the sun comes out for even a moment and he and his wife make an annual pilgrimage to Hawaii or Southern California for a little “time out” each spring without fail. The sun energizes us and makes us feel alive and they have found what works for them living in a city with on a few months of real sunshine each year.
Here in Germany they have come up with their own unique way of dealing with the inevitable doldrums that can set as a result of the long winter months. From November to March each year they celebrate Carnaval, also known as the 5th season.
The tradition goes something like this. Hoppeditz, the carnival figurehead, is woken from his slumber at precisely 11.11 am on November 11th, St. Martin's Day, and opens the Carnaval season with a witty speech in front of the town hall on the market square. On Ash Wednesday, Hoppeditz is carried howling and wailing to his 'grave' in the garden of the municipal museum. It's part of the tradition to give him a good send-off with a wake and extravagant meal for the start of Lent.
The celebrations continue throughout the winter months with costume balls, ceremonies, and processions all leading up to Carnaval Sunday in February when hundreds of thousands of people gather in the old quarter in lavish costume.
We’ve noticed that the folks here really enjoy their food and beer and were amused to see many of the costumed characters were pulling hand carts quirkily decorated and filled with beer, spirits and food to enjoy throughout the day.
One of the things I enjoyed most was the last few weeks leading up to the Carnaval weekend and how you could feel the palpable energy and excitement around town and in the people themselves. Costumes were already starting to appear, shop windows were full of decorations as were restaurants, trains, bicycles and anything else they could think of the decorate for the occasion. It was not at all uncommon to step onto the regional train and see a business man reading the paper with a tiny clown hat on as well as a big read nose, or perhaps a brightly colored bow tie or a funny wig. Not full costume yet but just enough to say it’s coming and I’m ready!
Here are a few of my favorite pictures for you to enjoy from our day at Carnaval Sunday.
No costume but lots of attention as usual!
Until next time ....
XOXO, from me and lu