By Shuichi Konaka, Düsseldorf Branch, Marubeni Europe Corporation.
I would like to give a description of Düsseldorf's "Carnival", a huge event held each year to help drive away Germany's long winter and dark winter skies. Düsseldorf is a city near Germany's western border (Holland is less than an hour away by car), located on the Rhine river and comprises one of the group of cities that includes nearby Cologne and Mainz and that is well-known for forming a strip inhabited by a large population of Catholic devotees, as in Southern Germany.
The peak season of Carnival occurs from mid to late February each year, counting backwards 40 days from Easter. This year, February 23 was the date for what is known as "Weiberfastnacht" (the women's Carnival, when, if their workplace declares the day a "Liberty Day", or a day free from normal superior - subordinate relations etc., it is customary for women to cut the neck ties of male colleague with scissors) and February 27 was the date of the main event, known as "Rosenmontag" (Rose Monday, the day of the grand parade). On Rose Monday, a lively parade, comprising 72 floats, 46 bands and 5600 participants exchanging greetings of "Herau" with each other in loud voices, formed a procession for 5 kilometers through Düsseldorf’s city center. The greeting used differs according to the region, and in nearby Cologne, which for historical reasons has a traditional strong sense of rivalry with Düsseldorf, the greeting used is "Alaaf" instead.
On the other hand, the spectators waiting along the sides of the main street respond to the greetings of the parade participants with their own greeting "Kamelle" (which is said to be derived from "caramel"), and when the masked and costumed people on the floats then scatter and distribute candy and various sweets to them, these are met with loud cheers, and adults and children alike can be seen scurrying around, scrambling to gather them up.
This sort of parade also occurs in Mainz and Cologne at the same time and scenes from the parades of each of the cities are broadcast and can be seen and compared on television. The decoration and design of the floats are made more elaborate year by year and their diverse themes range from people in the news to animation characters, and their high levels of workmanship raise similarly high levels of anticipation among spectators each year.
By the time Carnival finishes, at last the long German winter is coming to an end, with flowers in the fields coming into bud as if at once, and spring nearly here. It won’t be long now until the countdown begins for the start of the World Cup, and the local people here are already getting very excited. Let’s pray that Japan puts on a strong performance this time!
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.33 (May, 2006)