Exceptional state of joy – Cologne goes ‘jeck’

Two adolescents dressed up as superheros enjoy theirselves at a parade. (Photo by Carina Lingstädt)
Two adolescents dressed up as superheros enjoy theirselves at a parade. (Photo by Carina Lingstädt)

As a stronghold of German carnival, since Thursday the North Rhine-Westphalian metropolis celebrates ‘Cologne Carnival’, the popular so-called ‘fifth season of year’. People masquerade as anything and everythingmeet each other on the streets, go into pubs and sing catchy carnival songs. They become ‘jeck’, the Colognian expression for ‘nuts’. The heyday of the most colourful German festival lasts until Tuesday.

Actually, the Carnival season starts on the 11th of November. But not until ‘Wieverfastelovend’ [Fat Thursday] that the huge mass of people get involved. Previously, show events (‘carnival sessions’) take place within the circle of carnival clubs. The so-called ‘Dreigestirn’ is at the head of all carnivalists. It is a traditional trio consisting of the ‘Prinz’ [Prince], the ‘Jungfrau’ [Virgin] and the ‘Bauer’ [Farmer]. They are the official regents of the ‘närrisches Volk’ [crazy folk] and go from place to place to spread joy and happiness.

The traditional 'Dreigestirn': Virgin, Prince and Farmer. (Photo by Festkomitee Kölner Karneval von 1823) http://www.koelnerkarneval.de/
The traditional ‘Dreigestirn’: Virgin, Prince and Farmer. (Photo by Festkomitee Kölner Karneval von 1823)

For most people the festival only exists for the ongoing six days. But this week is celebrated by them as much as possible due to its grand hilarity. It begins with the already mentioned ‘Wieverfastelovend’. On that day chiefly the women go out together (which doesn’t mean that the men don’t party as well!). Start is just at 11.11. At that moment music shows on several big squares in Cologne set in and entertain the gathered hundreds of thousands dressed up people.

Short report of the start of Cologne Carnival’s heyday week:

 

Most of the artists on the stages are only known locally, as they solely play the specific carnival music. This music represents one of the most important factors of the festival. Virtually all of the songs express the lust for living and the love of the home Cologne. Most of them are cheerful, but there are also slower tunes full of something that could be described as ‘pleasant melancholy’.

Some of the most popular Cologne Carnival songs:

Cheerful: ‘Viva Colonia’ [Long live Cologne] by ‘Höhner’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDZ0GWa08Fc#t=1m6s

Chorus in Colognian:
Da simmer dabei! Dat is prima! Viva Colonia!
Wir lieben das Leben, die Liebe und die Lust
Wir glauben an den lieben Gott
und hab’n noch immer Durst.
Chorus in English:
Count us in! That is great! Long live Cologne!
We love life, love, and fun
We believe in the dear Lord God
and are still thirsty.

 

Cheerful: ‘Superjeilezick’ [‘Superawsometime’] by ‘Brings’ (Original: Those Were The Days)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1H2qi7q5Ro

Chorus in Colognian:
Nä, wat wor dat dann fröher en Superjeilezick!
Mit Träne in d’r Auge loor ich manchmol zurück
Bin ich hück op d’r Roll nur noch half su doll
doch hück Naach weiß ich nit wo dat ende soll
Chorus in English:
Well, what a ‘superawesometime’ it was in the past!
With tears in the eyes, I often look back
As when I go out today I am only half as crazy
But tonight I don’t know where it shall end.

 

Melancholic: ‘In unserem Veedel’ [In our Neighbourhood] by ‘Bläck Fööss’

Chorus in Colognian:
Wat och passeet,
dat Eine es doch klor:
et Schönste, wat m’r han,
schon all die lange Johr
es unser Veedel,
denn he hält m’r zosamme
ejal, wat och passeet
En uns’rem Veedel.
Chorus in English:
Whatever might happen,
one thing is clear:
The most beautiful we have,
– yet all the many years –
Is our neighbourhood,
Because here they stick together
No matter what happens
In our neighbourhood.

 

Melancholic: ‘Et jitt kei Wood’ [There is no Word] by ‘Cat Ballou’

Chorus in Colognian:
Et jitt kei Wood, dat sage künnt,
Wat ich föhl, wenn ich an Kölle denk
Wenn ich an ming Heimat denk!
Et jitt kei Wood, dat sage künnt,
Wat ich föhl, wenn ich an Kölle denk
Wenn ich an ming Heimat denk!
Chorus in English:
There is no word which could express
What I feel when I think of Cologne,
When I think of my home.
There is no word which could express
What I feel when I think of Cologne,
When I think of my home.

 

Especially for the younger generation, carnival processions are the best of the extraordinary week. These parades proceed through the streets of many neighbourhoods. On Carnival Monday, which is the highlight of the week, the main parade ‘Rosenmontagszug’ happens in the centre of Cologne.

‘Rosenmontagszug’ – Cologne’s procession on Carnival Monday:

Partially on big floats, the carnival clubs trek through the streets and throw sweets and funny items into the colourful crowd. Everybody calls ‘Kölle Alaaf!’, a shout through which the people show their affiliation, and tries to catch as many things as possible. Orchestras and show dance groups, which present remarkable choreographies, accompany the vehicles.

Carnival Monday parade in front of the Cologne Cathedral. (Photo by Harold R Cologne [FlickR]) http://www.flickr.com/photos/haroldrcologne/
Carnival Monday parade in front of the Cologne Cathedral. (Photo by Harold R Cologne [FlickR])
Cheering from a float. (Photo by Olaf Pieper [Facebook]) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Olaf-Pieper/209700852375933?fref=ts
Cheering from a float. (Photo by Olaf Pieper [Facebook])
Show dance group in a carnival parade. (Photo by RuckSackKruemel [FlickR]) http://www.flickr.com/photos/rucksackkruemel/
Show dance group and orchestra in a carnival parade. (Photo by RuckSackKruemel [FlickR])
The street carnival is also well-liked, because in Germany you are allowed to drink alcohol on the streets – one reason for the great hilarity at carnival.

Two adolescents dressed up as superheros enjoy theirselves at a parade. (Photo by Carina Lingstädt)
Two adolescents dressed up as superheros enjoy theirselves at a parade with some salacious items they caught. (Photo by Carina Lingstädt)

The festival ends on Tuesday, ‘Veilchendienstag’ [Pancake Day], at midnight.

 

The most important vocabulary one should know if he joins carnival,
as they are the most done things:

drinke – to drink
bütze – to kiss
danze – to dance
singe – to sing
laache – to laugh
fiere – to party

Girls that 'bütze'. (Photo by Harold R Cologne [FlickR]) http://www.flickr.com/photos/haroldrcologne/
Two girls that ‘bütze’. (Photo by Harold R Cologne [FlickR])