Carnival – not just a German tradition

Jennifer Goll  -  2020-01-17

The end of winter is approaching – and in the fools strongholds, carnival is already in full swing. Another Elferratssitzung, and yet another carnival party is chasing the next. It is anything but coincidence, that the carnival week with parades on Rose Monday and Shrove Tuesday and the early end of winter are so close to each other. Even the Germanic peoples wanted to drive away the evil spirits of the cold winter with masks and masquerades – and awaken the good spirits, so that they bring spring. Moreover, carnival has its origins as a Christian feast – meant by this is the night before the forty-day Lent period that lasts until Easter.

The tradition of the carnival speeches

The tradition of the so-called Büttenreden in the carnival period did not arise until the 19th century, when those living west of the Rhine were prohibited political action by French occupiers. People thus met in secret to have humorous political discussions. Even the start of the carnival season on 11.11. has not been chosen at random and dates back to the 19th century. According to Christian believe everyone is a fool who transgresses against the 10 commandments, thus the number 11 conveys a special symbolic meaning. Furthermore, the naming of the ‘Elferrat’ has its origins in this.

Carnival worldwide

As mentioned before, carnival has, among other things, a Christian background – consequently other countries around the globe with Christian culture dance and celebrate extensively. For example, every year numerous carnival fools visit Copacabana. In Brazil, countless samba schools organize the world-famous carnival parade through Rio de Janeiro. Even in countries such as Bolivia and Namibia celebrations take place every year. Canadians celebrate winter carnival in Quebec – without costumes but with plenty of snow and alcohol. The Carnival of Venice is also world famous. The city’s streets are transformed into stages with figures in elaborate masks. The Russians, too, celebrate once more just before Lent in the so-called „butter week“. The festival of the year is celebrated as a large folk festival with fairground booths. The third largest carnival festival in the world takes place in Cadiz – with Paso Doble, flamenco and African rhythms.

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