Carnival: 2020 season
Kisses, sweets and tie-cutting
|February| There is always plenty going on across North Rhine-Westphalia during the Carnival. To help you keep track of events, you will find a selection of the highlights taking place across North Rhine-Westphalia during the Carnival season 2019/2020 here.
The Rhine top 8
Cologne: the large-scale Carnival classic
The Cologne Carnival is one of the world’s biggest and best-known Carnival celebrations. The ‘Fastelovend’ or ‘Fasteleer’, as it is known in Cologne dialect, is almost as old as the history of the city itself. Revellers in Cologne have been enjoying the Carnival for around 190 years now. From the moment it kicks off on 11.11 to the end of the Carnival season on Ash Wednesday, some 180 Carnival societies, local tradition associations and district communities mark the occasion with around 600 gatherings, balls and processions. The finale takes place on the streets on ‘Weiberfastnacht’ (Women’s Carnival Day) the Thursday before Rose Monday: at 11:11 on 20 February 2020, the street Carnival is officially declared open at the Alter Markt by three principle Carnival characters (granted the roles of the maiden, prince and peasant). At 13:30, the historic ‘Jan un Griet’ Carnival play is performed at the Severinstor in the south of the city, followed by a procession to the Alter Markt.
And so it continues: each day, processions of all sizes weave their way through the streets in the districts to the left and right of the Rhine. Saturday plays host to a somewhat different procession in the form of a Ghost Parade: this is part of a series of celebrations in honour of the Roman Empress Agrippina the Younger who was born in Cologne 2000 years ago. The highlight of these playful activities is the Rose Monday procession on 24 February 2020, based on the motto of ‘Et Hätz schleiht em Veedel’.
Düsseldorf: Running with barrels and clogs
In Düsseldorf, the calendar of Carnival events features no fewer than 300 Carnival shows, balls, anniversaries, receptions and costume parties. The motto this season is ‘Unser Rad schlägt um die Welt’. Before the Carnival in the state capital reaches its culmination with the Rose Monday procession on 24 February 2020, the informal ‘Kö-Treiben’ (event on the Königsallee) on 23 February 2020 provides an opportunity for some lively celebrations. Several hundred people gather together on the boulevard from 11:11, in fancy dress of course. Many bring their own music and food with them, some bringing decorative handcarts as a means of transporting them. Another highlight of the street Carnival is the barrel race in the district of Niederkassel which on the Sunday features Carnival-goers running in clogs with a cart and barrel.
Bonn: Kisses from the washerwoman princess
The ‘Weiberfastnacht’ (Women’s Carnival Day) marks the start of the festivities: on 20 February 2020, there is nothing for the men to laugh about – and they have no say – at the various Carnival strongholds. They give away their power (and parts of their ties), at best receiving a kiss in return. This tradition began in Bonn: in 1824, the Bonn-Beueler washerwomen banded together to seek inclusion in the Carnival which had been reserved for men only until that point. Today, the storming of the town hall by the laundry princess marks the start of the street Carnival as well as being one of Bonn’s key attractions.
Aachen’s speciality: Carnival for children
The Children’s Carnival in Aachen is a big event and has a long-standing tradition. The Aachen Children’s Costume Carnival takes place on every Carnival Sunday and was first held before the Second World War. Some 120 different groups are parading through Aachen again on 23 February 2020. Around one third of them are schools and kindergartens along with 15 marching bands. The remainder consist of private groups, institutions and Carnival societies. The Rose Monday procession is undoubtedly the highlight of the year and much anticipated by all Carnival-goers. The procession extends over approx. 5 km and involves over 130 associations presenting their distinctive costumes and imaginatively designed floats.
Eifel: Ghost Parade in Blankenheim
In the Eifel, ghosts take to the streets during the Carnival season: on the Carnival Saturday, the traditional Ghost Parade marches through Blankenheim an der Ahr. The creepy figures are accompanied by Bengali fires and torch light as they take to the historic castle to drive out the winter demons. Anyone wishing to accompany the ghostly procession through the mediaeval alleyways simply needs to dress in the traditional costume: everyone should bring their own white bedsheet and rope and a pitch torch can be acquired at the entrance to the town hall, on payment of a fee.
Lower Rhine: Carnival Tuesday procession and ‘geselscap van den gecken’
Germany’s biggest Carnival Tuesday procession takes to the streets of Mönchengladbach on 25 March 2020. Drawing on 80 years of tradition, the 6 km long crazy Carnival procession has now become a fixed part of this Rhine Carnival, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the town each year. “Halt Pohl!” – the Carnival call here at the Carnival in Mönchengladbach.
The Lower Rhine town of Kleve is deemed to be the birthplace of the Carnival. The first Carnival society was founded here in 1381 – the ‘geselscap van den gecken’. This means of celebrating has changed over the course of the centuries, but Kleve remains one of the biggest Carnival strongholds in Lower Rhine: hearty celebrations will take place here at the ‘Klever Festzelt’ (marquee) at the heart of the city. The highlight of the Carnival season is the approx. 2 km long Rose Monday parade with over 70 floats, which sets off from Kleve’s pedestrian area at 12:11.
Neanderland: Procession of light in Langenfeld-Reusrath
In Langenfeld-Reusrath, Carnival-goers have the chance to take part in a very special Carnival procession: as darkness falls on Carnival Sunday, on 23 February 2020, revellers weave their way through the streets of the Langenfeld district with imaginatively lit floats. Another special feature is their Carnival call of ‘Helaaf!’ – here on the border between the Düsseldorfer Alt and Kölsch beer regions.
Carnival in Westphalia
Rose Monday procession in Münster: the classic in Westphalia
The highlight of the Münster Carnival is the traditional Rose Monday procession which starts out from the Schlossplatz square at 12:11 and from here winds its way through the picturesque old town – past the historic town hall and over the cobblestones in the Prinzipalmarkt marketplace. With over 100 floats, groups on foot and marching bands from Münsterland, the Netherlands and the city itself, Münster’s Rose Monday procession is one of the biggest in Westphalia. Each year, the colourful highlights include the colourful and imaginative floats and groups parading on foot from Losser in the Netherlands. The town’s historic backdrop gives the procession a special feel – and attracts thousands of people to line the route each year.
Gescher: Procession for the impatient
The Gescher Carnival in Münsterland is celebrated two weeks before Rose Monday. This is a tradition which dates from the 19th century. By bringing forward the date of the procession, the people of Gescher sought to bypass attempts by the clergy to impose 40 hours of prayer on Rose Monday and prohibit ‘unchristian Carnival activity’.
Carnival in Delbrück: the oldest in Westphalia
Carnival-goers in Delbrück-Mitte are proud of their ‘Eintracht von 1832’, the oldest Carnival association in the ‘Bund Westfälischer Karneval’ Carnival federation. Soon they were all infected by the bug and every district set up its own association. The Rose Monday procession is one of the highlights in this city in the Teutoburg Forest in addition to the children’s procession on the Sunday.
Beverungen: Cross-border Carnival procession
The Rose Monday procession passes through two states in the district of Höxter. The procession starts out from Beverungen-Lauenförde on the Lower Saxony side of the Weser river and runs via the Weserbrücke bridge into North Rhine-Westphalia. The procession is so long that the first Carnival-goers are already celebrating in Beverungen in North Rhine-Westphalia while many of the Carnival groups are still waiting to set off over the border in Lower Saxony.
The Carnival call of ‘Hasi-Palau’ in Paderborn
Documents from Paderborn’s city archives prove that a Carnival procession took place here as far back as 1567. The highlight of these fantastic few days in Paderborn is the Carnival parade on the Carnival Saturday when the Carnival-goers of Paderborn, along with lots of colourful groups on foot and floats, weave their way through Paderborn’s city centre led by the royal Carnival couple with cries of ‘Hasi-Palau’!