Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage
The “Rhineland Carnival” in all its Local Variants
For many people in the Rhineland, the Carnival, as a community-strengthening festival, is an important element of their lives. This festival, which can be traced back to the beginning of the 13th Century, defines itself as a threshold to the pre-Easter fasting period. Since the 15th Century the social order has been symbolically questioned in the form of fools’ masks and costumes.
Facts & figures
Crucial date: between November and February
Domains: social practices, rituals and festive events;
Where to find: Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf and surrounding areas (especially in North Rhine-Westphalia)
The bourgeois form of Carnival began its development at the beginning of the 19th Century. The beginning of the Carnival season is the presentation of the princely couple on November 11th. The so-called “Carnival Session” begins on Twelfth Night; the “Weiberfastnacht” (Women’s Carnival) marks the beginning of the street carnival.
The highlight is the procession held on Shrovetide Monday in imitation of the many thousands of years’ old rulers’ processions.
Important elements of this complex of customs are Carnival Sessions, masked balls and the cries of “Alaaf” or “Helau”. Songs and so-called Büttenreden (rhyming carnival speeches) are characterised by local dialects and frequently take up political subjects.
In times of social upheavals the Carnival constantly provided important impulses and proved itself to be an integrating force for people of all ages, all social classes and origins. To be "jeck" (nuts) together and disguise oneself is just as must a part of the Carnival as is voluntary work and social commitment throughout the year.