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28 February 2006

Happy Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras! Happy Carnival!

a papier mache doll
of German Chancellor Angela Merkel
as dominatrix rides through the streets
of Köln/Cologne Deutschland/Germany
Monday during Carnival. (Deutsche Welle)

[Vleeptron and Yankee Magnetic Software wish everyone a Happy Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras, and a spiritually renewing Lent. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Easter Sunday will be 16 April. We particulary wish everyone has managed to make it to some raucous, anarchic festival, and we send out Very Special Mardi Gras Wishes to the People of New Orleans, Louisiana, and those who have come to help them celebrate their first Mardi Gras since Hurricane Katrina.]

Monday 27 February 2006

Anything goes
at German carnival
-- except religion

by Karin Strohecker

COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) -- Picture German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a dominatrix, the American eagle with bird flu and the Iranian President in the shape of a nuclear bomb.

At carnival time in Germany anything goes -- except, this year, mocking religion, a victim of the world-wide controversy over cartoons of the Prophet.

Millions of Narren or jesters took to the streets on Monday to party, dance and cheer as parades mocking politicians and poking fun at contemporary issues wound through big cities.

In Cologne, home to Europe's biggest carnival parade, some 1,300,000 people filled the streets, singing along with marching bands and jumping up to catch candy swirling through the air while keeping a tight grip on their beer bottles.

"Everything is allowed at this time of year and it's a blast. We are thoroughly enjoying it," said Daniel Kretschmer, who came from Hamburg dressed as a nun to watch the parade.

"All year long we have to listen to politicians preaching to us. This is finally a chance to get back at them."

While political satire is encouraged, Cologne revellers took care not to cross the line and religion was a declared no-go zone amid a row over caricatures of the Prophet published first in a Danish newspaper that sparked world-wide protest.

Jacques Tilly, mastermind behind the parade in Duesseldorf that attracted 1 million people, said he regretted the limitation while acknowledging the situation had changed.

"Religion is in my eyes a delusion and hence should be mocked," he said. "The humour depicted on the floats simply needs to have some bite otherwise there is little point."

But one of Duesseldorf float depicted Pope Benedict wearing the jersey of the city's battered soccer club Fortuna.

And on another float two jesters carried a coffin written "Freedom of Opinion" with a sabre stuck in.


Iran, which the West believes is pursuing a nuclear weapon, featured high on Tilly's agenda with one float depicting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the shape of an atomic bomb.

Last year, Tilly sparked an outcry when he depicted Catholic Cardinal Joachim Meisner setting fire to a woman tied to the stake, with the words "I had an abortion" written on her dress.

But people applauded in 2003 when the parade showed Merkel, then in opposition, coming out of Uncle Sam's backside -- a comment on her perceived support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

This year cheers and laughter erupted in Cologne as a float with a huge Merkel puppet in a tight latex suit cracked a whip -- a symbol of the new chancellor's efforts to waken Germany from economic slumber.

On another float a sickly looking American Eagle lay on its back, thermometer in mouth, with an ice-bag in the form of a deflated globe on its head.

U.S. President George Bush is shown stumbling from one disaster, titled "New Orleans", into another labelled "nuclear conflict." "Iraq" and "Kyoto Protocol" trail behind him.

The German carnival is a version of the Mardi Gras festivals held in different parts of the world including New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.

In Cologne, Europe's biggest carnival event, the parade featured more than 124 marching bands, 100 floats and 10,000 people distributing some 150 tonnes of candy.

Soccer is another hot topic in a city that will host five games during the World Cup starting in June, but religion was off limits.

"It is just not normal at the Cologne Rose Monday parade to be blasphemous," said Sigrid Krebs, spokeswoman for the Cologne Carnival Committee.

Copyright © Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


Deutsche Welle (Germany)
Monday 27 February 2006

1,000,000 Revelers
Line Streets of Cologne
for Carnival

The World Cup was the theme, but revelers also poked fun at the bird flu crisis as one million people took to the streets of Cologne on Monday for the biggest carnival of the season in Germany.

The Rose Monday parade is the high point of a week of festivities which sees Germans letting down their hair, donning silly costumes and consuming liberal quantities of sweets and beer.

People braved freezing temperatures in Cologne to line the seven-kilometer (four-mile) route of the parade to catch a glimpse of the 96 floats which began rolling at the traditional time of 11:11 am.

"Carnival is part of life, like eating and drinking. You should never miss carnival, even if there is rain and snow," said Gisela Gehlen, 66, who was part of a group of women waiting to see their grandchildren on one of the floats.

The nearby cities of Düsseldorf and Mainz also held carnival parades on Monday, attended by hundreds of thousands.

No bird flu blues in Cologne

It's loud, it's kitchy and everybody loves it

In line with the generally irreverent atmosphere, some revelers in Cologne donned face masks and what appeared to be white chemical protection suits marked with the words "I will survive H5N1" to poke fun at the stringent measures introduced following the recent outbreak of bird flu in several German regions.

One man dressed as a bird wore a notice saying "I have been vaccinated."

With the World Cup kicking off in just over 100 days, many revelers wore football jerseys or black and white hats to resemble balls.


Wolfram Teggen, a 46-year-old reveler from Cologne, went one step further, dressing in an oversized green tunic made to look like a soccer pitch.

"I am not even a football fan. I'll just be glad if Germany gets through the first round, but I don't think they'll reach the final," he said.

Pure fun

The carnival season is considered to be a "fifth season of the year."

Sweets and chocolates rained down on the crowd from the floats, as marching bands played music that was upbeat if not always in tune.

Carnival is a tradition stemming from Catholic regions in the west and south of Germany, but it is rapidly being adopted by cities in the north and east, such as in Berlin where 500,000 people gathered for a parade on Sunday.

It is held before the Christian season of Lent, which starts on Wednesday.


Anonymous patfromch said...

In the city of Basle and the little village where I grew up, Carnival or Fasnacht as we call it will be celebrated next weekend.
At least in Basle it will be very amusing. Lotsa parades, small bands and single individuals walking the streets and playing music and troubadours at the local pubs making fun of recent events, local politics and the football club. You REALLY have to be into this thing and dig it to appreciate it. The whole thing has become somewhat institutionalized, but that doesn't boether me. I'm not giong anyway.
As for the little village I reckon half of 'em will get sh***faced for three days. Don't bother me either, I'm not going.
Hey I thought you wanted to go to Mardi Gras this year !!


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