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Carnival celebrations happen across Germany every year but none with more passion and humour than the Rhenish Carnival in Düsseldorf. Filled with parades, parties and outrageous costumes, it’s time for some culturally sanctioned reckless abandon, tongue-in-cheek gags and witty satirical takes on politics at home and abroad.
The festivities kick into high gear just before Ash Wednesday, in February or early March, but Düsseldorf’s Carnival officially begins in autumn. During the Hoppeditz Awakening, at 11 minutes past 11 o’clock in the morning, on the 11th of November, the streets and bars overflow with jesters, big and small. Locals don ridiculous costumes to “awaken” the biggest jester of them all, the Hoppeditz Fool, who scolds the crowds in front of Düsseldorf’s City Hall. After this playful rebuke, the celebrations begin and the beer starts flowing like there’s no tomorrow.
Scissors and Ties
After November’s rowdy awakening, celebrations calm down until just before Lent. On the Thursday preceding Rose Monday (Rosenmontag, or Shrove Monday), the party atmosphere bubbles up again with the Altweiberfastnacht, when women rule the city. Women roam the streets and town square with scissors in hand and start randomly clipping off men’s ties – especially those of men in positions of power – and show them who’s boss. If you’re a dedicated tie-wearing guy in town on Altweiberfastnacht, it’s best to leave your Gucci neckwear at home, and opt for something more disposable.
The Long Carnival Weekend
Rhenish Carnival starts to kick into full swing on the Saturday before Lent, with the Jugendumzug Youth Procession, when an army of costumed children march through Düsseldorf’s streets to the cheers of the crowd. On Carnival Sunday, merrymakers start to truly soak up the festival atmosphere, especially along Königsallee Boulevard and its picturesque canal, just south of Hotel Indigo Düsseldorf Victoriaplatz. The street turns into a party thronged with locals in outrageous costumes from aliens to jokers, many in groups with their own hand-drawn trolleys loaded with kegs of beer. Expect a lot of eating and drinking and equally copious amounts of song and dance, plus good-natured kisses shared with friends and strangers alike.
The Rose Monday Parade is also wild affair, with up to a million-strong crowd on the streets to witness the parade of colourful and imaginative floats, from fairy-tale horse-and-carriages to creative company promotions and Donald Trump parodies. The freedom to poke fun at important figures in brutally satirical, no-holds-barred ways is one of the highlights of the day.
Come Ash Wednesday, the Rhenish Carnival sadly draws to an end, although if you’re fortunate enough to visit Düsseldorf during this time of year, you’ll have had more than enough festive excuses to head out into streets to celebrate.