CONTRIBUTED BY KARI MARTINDALE
Note: This article was originally published for the 2014 Karneval season. We are bringing it out of the archives for you this year’s season. In 2016 these events will take place from Sunday, February 7 – Tuesday, February 9.
When we searched for a nice home in a “real” German town, we had no idea we’d be choosing a town of 6,000 that draws 17,000 for Karneval every year (Dieberg). But it turns out we are lucky enough to live on the actual Karneval parade route, two houses from the official starting point; the entire parade lines up starting at our house and then begins marching from there. The Marktplatz itself gets crazy during the weekend leading up to Fastnacht Dienstag. For the ten days leading up, people walk around town dressed in costumes at all hours. It’s strange, awesome, fun.
As for this whole shebang, our house is in a great location for people-watching. Not only do people who live near us walk past, but there’s also a parking lot down the road for those who drive in for the festivities. People drove by dressed as a cheetah or biked by dressed as a goofy sheikh. Colonial garb. Witches. Costumes on, costumes in arm, a family of costumes draped over a stroller—these people were of all ages. There were ittle old ladies in floppy hats with flowers sticking out of them. All week long, we watched and listened to people at all hours, walking, hobbling, singing, ringing bells, laughing and otherwise enjoying themselves up and down the sidewalk. Every now and then, we had to remove a plastic shot glass from our wall, but it was a small price to pay to participate in the festivities. Like many families in Dieburg, we hung the flag of our local Karneval Club, the KVD—our landlord, whose family has been involved in the KVD for many years, left the flags for us to hang at the house.
I will present the events with the dates on which they occur this year (in case anyone is looking to visit!), with a description of the events last year. I’ll also highlight some of the cool ways the Germans make things easier on themselves in the parade.
SUNDAY, 23 February 2014: Kinderfastnacht
13:33 hrs – Kinderfastcachtzug (the children’s parade)
Last year when I learned that there was a children’s parade, I thought that it would be a small parade of local schoolchildren dressed up and walking through the Marktplatz. I knew that my daughter Sequoia’s Kindergarten class would be dressed as elves, although Sequoia would not be participating by choice. After only a few months in the school, with limited German, and with questions as to why the children were dressed up as elves and yelling “Dibborsch… Äla!” in the street, my shy little Sequoia declined.
Throughout this parade and the big one, and occasionally in the street all week long, people greeted one another with“Dibborsch”
From what I understand, every Karneval group has its own unique call and response.
Knowing that the parade would be immediately followed by the Maskenball, Sequoia dressed up for the events. As we walked down our street and toward the Marktplatz, I began to get the sense that the parade would be made up of more than schoolchildren when we passed a marching band playing in the street, then a group of men dressed like soup packets. The Marktplatz was surrounded by giant Fasching flags in the Dieburg Karneval colors: red, white, green, and yellow. We watched as more parade groups headed toward the starting point—groups which were not made up of just schoolchildren.
Soon, a car topped with Karneval-colored balloons, blaring Dieburg Karneval music, turned the corner and kicked off the parade. The streets were lined with people of all ages (we stood with a few old ladies, ourselves). Children held out bags to fill with candy, popcorn, and peanuts (yes, peanuts) that were being tossed in fistfuls.
Parade groups were varied. There were kindergartners in theme and costumed groups on stilts; brand-style costumes such as Playmobil, and folksy costumes such as Sequoia’s kindergarten’s elves. Bands and other performers came from surrounding towns, as ours is the only one with a large Karneval until you hit some of the bigger cities.
There were some costumes you just wouldn’t expect to see at a children’s parade!
Eventually, the young Prince and Princess rounded the bend. They would wave as any beauty pageant royalty, and toss candy.
Everyone then followed the back of the parade to the…
14:33 hrs – Kindermaskenball (children’s masquerade ball)
Families all rushed into the hall to get seats together at long tables. Adults drank beer and enjoyed light fare while younger children gathered up front to play games and sing songs until the full program began. Bands, local youth dance troupes, etc. performed. We were not able to stay for the entire program, so I am unable to report in detail.
SUNDAY, 02 March 2014 – “Äla Nacht, Die Super-Show der Dieburger Fastnacht”
1. As I check out this in this year’s schedule, I have idea what this super show is. Can’t wait to find out if I can attend this year! Some events are ticket-only and sold out well in advance, but this is probably public.
2. I should also note that the partying goes on Friday and Saturday in town. Businesses board up the windows at night like we live in the city (this is the only time of year you see that, and every day by morning it’s gone and business as usual!) First thing in the morning, the streets look like Mardi Gras is going on; by mid-morning, the trash has disappeared. Every day. Even with hangovers, Germans are serious cleaner-uppers.
3. All week, people were walking around in some form of costume, day and night. Last year, I saw an adult in full panther costume walking around town before 0900. There’s a woman who walked the streets in a homemade rigatoni wig all day. When not in costume, many adults wore a scarf of Karneval colors.
MONDAY, 03 March 2014 – Rosenmontag
Here in Dieburg, Monday and Tuesday are holidays. Rosenmontag kicks off the real insanity for us.
Although the elementary school has off, Sequoia’s Kindergarten had a half day last year. They held a Rosenmontag party. The young Prinzenpaar (prince and princess) visited, and there was singing and dancing (and a congo line led by the young Prinzenpaar); children and parents alike were in costume (which some kids had worn on and off for the preceding week—generally speaking, people, including children, own more than one costume).
My husband wasn’t feeling well on Rosenmontag, so I walked into town alone in the early evening, just to see what was going on. When I arrived in the Marktplatz, it was but a small crowd that I first encountered. Children of all ages were running around. Some, but not all, of the beer and liquor kiosks were open. The restaurants were hopping, but everything else was closed. I could hear different music coming from the next block, albeit faint with the loud music of the Marktplatz in my ear. I thought I saw balloons–maybe I’d text my husband to bring Sequoia out to me. I arrived to find a float with a circus band on it. A woman with a riding crop was spanking a man walking by. I’d seriously misjudged that one.
I observed Rosenmontag “before it got crowded”. Apparently starting at about 9:00, you can’t walk. Perhaps the group of bass drummers (being led—I could not believe my eyes—by my landlord in costume!) that was walking by on the Marktplatz when I was heading out of town only plays until a certain time, as the town would soon become packed. The cellar doors in town open so people can head underground and party. I also saw businesses that were not restaurants, now being used as party zones. I peeked into the bank. It was now being used as a disco. One cellar with a bar inside, for the convenience of those who did not want to walk down the stairs, had set up a folding table outside the door, where two young guys were selling hard liquor.
As I headed home, I heard something rather loud behind me. I immediately jumped into a storefront doorway to escape a float that was rounding the bend. It turns out the circus band was on a float that, well, floated around town. People were singing and dancing and drinking, giddy and red-eyed, following it until it stopped not too far ahead of me. I stayed on the doorstep and continued to observe as everyone danced and sang along with the band.
On my way home, I bumped into my neighbors, who, along with their 2-year-old atop her father’s shoulders, were taking in the sights of Rosenmontag “before it got too crazy”. I could not believe it: I saw some of the folks who had to wake up the next day to march in…
TUESDAY, 04 March 2014 – Fastnacht-Dienstag (Fastnacht Teusday)
13:33 hrs – The big parade
Dieburg holds its parade on Tuesday. Generally speaking, north of here, the parade is held on Monday, while here and to the south they hold it on Tuesday. (We knew the parade was no joke when we noticed a port-a-potty going up caddy-corner from the house.)
About mid-morning, we began to hear the thumping of drums, then loud music, and eventually the chatter of voices as people passed by the house. First, it was groups of people in costume, walking toward the house where their group was to wait in line until the parade started; then it was people finding a spot to stand on the sidewalk. Many spectators were dressed up, be it in simple hats or wigs, a more cleverly lazy bathrobe and shower cap, or full-blown costume.
I was shocked to see actual parade floats going down our narrow street. When the first, our Karneval jester, appeared, I was amazed.
Dieburgers were very resourceful in how they pulled the floats and carried their equipment down these streets. Tractors, golf carts, tiny vehicles…
The young Prinzenpaar made an appearance, followed by the new (adult) Prinzenpaar of the year.
A nice thing to see is the family aspect of the parade. When you are a member of a Karneval group, your whole family is involved; it is expected. Mothers had their children by hand and were pushing strollers down the street, everyone dressed in costume. Creative methods transported the youngest.
Just as with the children’s parade, the costumes ran the gamut: elaborate and simple, generic and trademark (especially the ‘80’s).
Other precious cargo was cleverly transported–check out these beer and drink holders!
19:11 hrs. – Prinzenball (Prince’s ball)
This is a ticket-only event in the hall, and tickets are coveted…maybe someday!
The interesting thing about living in a small town with a large Karneval is, I see my landlord, Sequoia’s school friends and parents, neighbors, etc., all involved in the festivities. I’m not just fighting my way through the crowds of a city street hoping not to spill my beer, watching strangers in costumes–I’m tickled pink when Sequoia’s teacher singles her out to toss her candy, and we’re waving at our actual friends and neighbors in the parade. I’m genuinely shocked and amused at whom I see stumble, red-eyed, down the street. When I look at the pictures after I upload them, I see people I know. It’s wonderful, and in our town, large enough to be real, but not as insane as the bigger cities. If you have not experienced Karneval in Germany, it’s a must-must-see, and it’s right around the corner!
To read my original posts and see more pictures, they all begin at the Karneval – Dieburg page on my website, In Germany, A Broad.