Carnival parades draw millions across Germany

Düsseldorf carnival parade pulls no punches

Volkswagen up in flames

Volkwagen's role in the "Dieselgate" emissions scandal is satirized on this float. Despite what looks like a catastrophe, however, the carmaker still managed to achieve record sales in Germany in 2017.

Düsseldorf carnival parade pulls no punches

Autocratic friends?

The Rhineland in Germany is famous for its anti-authoritarianism. So these two political figures are perhaps obvious targets: the leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is bearing a sickle with the word "dictatorships," and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with a hammer, set to smash legal rights.

Düsseldorf carnival parade pulls no punches

Trump's big bugbear

As was well to be expected, US President Donald Trump provided German float-makers with plenty of material. Here, he is seen in a compromising pose with a Russian bear seemingly in full control.

Düsseldorf carnival parade pulls no punches

Making mincemeat of Martin Schulz

Social Democrat Martin Schulz, who looks to have been one of the big losers as Germany tries to establish a coalition government, cut a very unhappy figure at the Düsseldorf parade. But the makers of this float think it is all his own fault, according to the pun written on the grinder.

Düsseldorf carnival parade pulls no punches

Room for seriousness

Not all topics were treated with irreverence: Here, the European Union comes in for criticism for its treatment of refugees, such as returning migrants to camps in Libya, where an uncertain fate awaits them.

Düsseldorf carnival parade pulls no punches

A Brexit baby?

British Prime Minister Theresa May gives birth to a doubtful offspring on this float. Many in Germany view Britain's decision to leave the European Union with dismay.

Düsseldorf carnival parade pulls no punches

Merkel, destroyer of politicians?

Chancellor Angela Merkel could not escape her share of satire. A gruesome depiction of the German leader as a black widow spider hovers over the skulls of those some consider as her political victims.

Millions of revelers have braved cold winter weather to attend traditional carnival parades in Germany. The processions often take on a highly satirical note.

Germany's carnival season reached its height on Monday, with colorful "Rose Monday" parades taking place in many cities, particularly the traditional strongholds of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz in the west of the country.

The parade in Cologne, which took the motto "We in Cologne march to a different tune" ("Mer Kölsche danze us der Reih" in the local dialect), featured some 11,000 participants, around 390 horses and 85 floats, many of which bore huge and often unflattering figures representing politicians.

Among those singled out for satire this year were Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May.  

Read more: Berlin 24/7: Carnival in Berlin? A mission impossible

Candy in abundance

Traditionally, bouquets of flowers and candy of various kinds are thrown down from the floats into the crowds of spectators, many of whom wear costumes ranging from pirates to devils. This year, 300 tonnes (330.7 US tons) of confectionary were up for grabs in Cologne alone.

Some spectators in Düsseldorf may have been thankful for a warming of spirits rather than candy

The tradition of the parades also began in Cologne, where the first one took place in 1823 in a bid to import the famous celebrations from the Italian city of Venice. The success of the events led other cities in the region to follow suit.

Unfortunately, celebrations in Cologne were marred this year by a runaway parade horse injuring several onlookers. 

Police were out in force at the parades

In Düsseldorf, 6,000 took part in Monday's parade, with some 100 floats.

"Rose Monday" or Shrove Monday was traditionally seen as a last chance to celebrate before the start of the 40-day Christian fasting season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

Read more: 11 crazy Carnival events held between November and Lent

Related Subjects

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Fastelovend, or: Fasteleer

Carnival, also known as the "Fifth Season," holds such a special place in the hearts of most Cologne residents that they have many words for it. Although Carnival, or "Fastelovend," is said to begin on November 11 each year, the really "great days" start with Ladies' Night, or "Weiberfastnacht" on the Thursday before and runs up until the dawn of Ash Wednesday.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


Kölsch: It's the only language you can drink. That's the running gag in Cologne, where the dialect and hometown brew share the same name. Normally served in tall, slender glasses, during Carnival it's plastic cups only as no breakable glass is allowed on the street. Should you grab Kölsch at a Brauhaus, though, remember: Bring cash. It's the only way to buy drink tickets in packed pubs.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Clowning around with the Jecken

Anyone celebrating Carnival in Cologne is considered a "Jeck." A costume is required - the more colorful the better — to enjoy a Kölsch beer on the streets as a Jeck. Though used year-round to get a feel for your Carnival loyalties, asking someone if they're Jeck can also mean: "Are you nuts?"

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

D'r Zoch kütt!

This expression means: "There comes the Carnival's parade!" High atop the colorful wagons decorated with paper maché sculptures are costumed people who rain down sweets and — if you're lucky maybe a rose — on the crowds. Dance troupes and marching bands likewise get in the mix. The highlight in Cologne is the Rose Monday parade, though smaller neighborhood parades are held throughout the week.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


"Kamelle" are the sweets thrown from atop the Carnival floats. It used to be hard candy only, but in recent years, chocolate bars, chips and bags of popcorn are thrown as well. If you're hungry, you can try to grab the throwers' attention with a loud "Kamelle" — just be sure to check the pronunciation first so you don't yell Camel! at the crowds.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


For the grown-ups in the crowd, roses are often handed out but only if you cry "Strüssjer!! Kamelle!!" Sometimes there might even be a kiss given out as well.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


A "Bützcher" is a big smooch. During the Carnival festivities, expect to get kissed ("gebützt," or to be correct: "jebütz") more than usual. Complete strangers distribute harmless pecks on strangers' cheeks, though some wet Bützcher (in standard Kölsch, "Butz") may also smudge Carnival makeup all over your face.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Jet ze müffele

Something to eat — particularly important with high Kölsch consumption during Carnival. Famous Cologne dishes include "Flönz" (blood sausage), "Halver Hahn" (rye bread roll with cheese), "Hämcher" (pork knuckle) and "Rievkooche" (potato pancakes). During Carnival, "Frikadellen" (meatballs) are available as a quick snack almost everywhere (photo).

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


This word refers to pubs, bars or restaurants. Almost all of them take part in celebrating Carnival. They clear out the furniture to create a large dance floor and decorate everything colorfully for six days of celebration in a row. In many local pubs only Kölsche music is played (songs in the Kölsch dialect). You will often find up to 300-meter long queues in front of the traditional pubs.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Decke Trumm

A "decke Trumm" is a big fat drum. It sets the beat in many traditional Carnival songs. The drummers strap them on and beat them with a heavy stick. You can impress everyone by beating the drum and describing what you're doing in traditional Kölsch: "op the Trumm jeklopp."

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Schunkele un danze

In all of Cologne people dance ("danze") during Carnival — on the streets and in the pubs. If a song is in waltz time, people hook into each others arms and sway back and forth according to the beat. This is called "schunkeln." Some famous Schunkel songs are: "Ich ben ene Räuber," "Mir sinn kölsche Mädcher," "Blootwoosch, Kölsch un en lecker Mädcher."

tj/rc (dpa, AFP, AP)