The Fifth Season

Köln is a Catholic city- so before Lent, they GO CRAZY. Karneval is such a big deal here, and is so ingrained in the culture of Köln that it’s called “The Fifth Season.” It goes on for about a week (the partying part of it anyways) and is a mix between Mardi Gras and Halloween. People come from all over to party and experience it. It’s the largest street festival in all of Europe. The other day Simon cracked me up when he said, “We Colognians take our spiritual disobedience very seriously.”

Friedel told me that there are hundreds of “Karneval Clubs” in the city that meet regularly throughout the year to prepare for Karneval and plan their floats that will be in the Karneval parades (while drinking Kölsch of course!). These parades are epic- hundreds of decorated floats that spend the whole day weaving throughout the city throwing treats out to the crowds.  Men in the crowd yell “Strüssje!” (which means “bouquet!”) and then roses are thrown at them from the float. They then give it to their sweetheart (or whomever they fancy). Kids yell “Kamelle!” (which means “Sweets!”) and lots of candy and other treats are thrown at them. It’s like a circus at the same time- stilt walkers, acrobats, marching bands.

For grownups Karneval is all about drinking, eating, music, and sex. No joke- every year, 40 weeks after Karneval there is a big baby boom. Hospitals prepare ahead to make sure they have enough staff in their maternity wards. The “Karneval pub crawl” is very popular- going to as many pubs as you can (and there are A LOT of pubs here!). All of these places play Karneval music- there are thousands of Karneval songs- many of which praise Köln and it’s people. A popular Kölsch Karneval phrase you will hear over and over again is “Kölle Alaaf!” which translates to “Cologne above all!” Lots of these songs are learned from an early age.

For kids, Karneval is all about dressing up in costumes, singing Karneval songs (which they are taught in school), watching the MANY parades go by, and CANDY. Quinnie has been learning Karneval songs at school and loves it. The other morning I heard her and Simon singing along together to Karneval songs they found on YouTube. Simon loves it. Even when we were living in San Diego he would blast his Karneval music from time to time.

About a month ago I went to a big Department Store and they were already all prepared for Karneval. I snapped a few pics-


The clown is the symbol of Karneval- dressing up, being silly, having fun.










Red and White are the Köln colors- you will see them a lot at Karneval








I have noticed that Native American Indians are really popular here. Not just for costumes- kids are into them- you can find lots of books and toys








As you can see- the weirder the better






The tri-corner hat and costumes from that time period are also very popular












Sparkle Overalls for me and Simon? (lol)


Karneval jewelry. I bought the girls pins of the Dom that light up (not shown here- will get a pic for my next Karneval post).


Lots of the Karneval Clubs design their own necklaces each year (there are hundreds). Oma and Opa gave the girls 3 (from past years) that they had lying around their house (pic below). They love them.




Quinnie wearing her Karneval necklaces


Decorations in Kiera’s school…


A candy decoration (it’s thrown from the floats in the parades).




Karneval reminders everywhere…


Heidi Klum (who’s from the Köln area) wearing a “Funkemariechen” costume (translates to “spark Marie” but also Majorette). This is a really popular Karneval costume for women.








Today was Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday)- the beginning of Karneval. Both girls got to wear their costumes to school and their classes were having Karneval parties. Quinnie wanted to be a princess, and Kiera wanted to be a bee. (Kiera didn’t like any of the bee costumes I found her, so she decided to be a princess also.)




There were SO MANY awesome costumes on the train when I went to pick Quinnie up from school. I wish I was brave enough to have snapped photos of all of them. I tend to be more shy about that here than in the States. Here, if someone gets pissed I’m taking their photo it can be really awkward with me not understanding lots of German (especially the Kölsch dialect). Oh well- I know I’ll get lots of awesome Karneval photos on Monday. Here are just a few from today…










Quinnie with her friends Irma and Matilda

Simon snapped a few pics in the train station on his way home from work…






We are fleeing the city for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We’re going on a short family vacation (will post about it later). We’ll be back on Monday for the highlight of Karneval- Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). This is the most fun day for the kids- where they have the biggest parade with candy and roses being thrown at the crowds from the floats.

Tuesday is the Veedelszöösch where the different Quarters/ Neighborhoods throw their own parades and parties.

Wednesday is Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday) and the end of Karneval. The Nubbel (an effigy) is burned to symbolize this.

Here is the Wikipedia page for the Köln Karneval– I really recommend you read it- some  very interesting information.

I’ll do my next post on Karneval sometime next week- hopefully with lots of fun pictures. Have a great weekend!


4 thoughts on “The Fifth Season

  1. Tanta Jenny

    I know what I want for Christmas…so much to choose from! Seems like such a fun city that is full of life! The girls are adorable. xo

  2. Marcia Badger

    Wow! Reminds me of Citrus Park at Mardi Gras!!!! I love the photos and the information. Sounds like you are enjoying yourself and the girls are having a wonderful experience. What an adventure! Your girls are beautiful……just like their mom! Xoxoxo

  3. Grandma

    Thanks so much for the info on karneval and all the photos! it is similar to Halloween in the states except it is for a week! looks like a lot of fun..the girls must be wide eyed when they are traveling to school? Where are you guys going? Snow country? Have fun and we look forward to the follow up blog and photos! love the photos of my 2 princesses… Xo mom

  4. Harry

    Sure enjoying your wonderful blogs !

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