In Brazil, they celebrate mainly in Rio; in the U.S. it's principally New Orleans. The carnival season, also known as Mardi Gras elsewhere, is celebrated nationally in Germany. Called "Fasching" in Bavaria, "Karneval," in the Cologne area or "Fasnacht" in the SouthWest , season kicks off on November 11 at 11:11 a.m. (also called St. Martin's Day in southern Germany) and escalates on Shrove Monday through fever pitch, reached on Shrove Tuesday, the eve of Lent in the Christian calendar. The first written record of the Köln carnival is from the year 1341, so Germans have been partying for a long time!
How could the capital of Germany not have a huge festival all its own? Sure, Berlin celebrates Oktoberfest and Fasching and Sylvester, but most of those and almost all the other festivals in the city which are not strictly cultural events such as the Berlin Film Festival, the Berlin Jazz Days, and the like, really are all "borrowed themes" from other German cities or even other parts of the world. Enter the Love Parade!
The Love Parade, taking place this year on July 15, bills itself as the "world's largest techno music festival and free party." Beginning in 1989 as a peace demonstration shortly befall the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, the first "love parade" attarcted a mere 150 ravers in two cars who partied to the motto "peace, happiness and pancakes." By 1998, this exhuberant festival had reached more than 1 million participants and turned into a weeklong celebration with the motto "One World, One Future." In 2004 and 2005 the Love Parade was canceled for financial and organizational reasons, but 2006 the German capital expects the celebration will draw hundreds of thousands for a weeklong free party and celebration of techno music. Besides techno music, there is also usually a lot of nudity, free spirited sexual adventures in public places and quite a bit of "general-purpose partying."
The grand daddy of the big Wedding Parties, the Oktoberfest commemorates the honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September to allow for better weather conditions. Because September nights were warmer, visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over the fields much longer without feeling chilly.
The festivities for 2006 are scheduled from September 16 - October 3. The giant celebration has a parade all its own, too - the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade. The parade will fall on September 19th in 2006. Teh monthlong festival also includes other festivals such as the parade of the Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the official Tapping of the Keg, the Oktoberfest Mass, „Böllerschießen“ (handheld canon salute) in front of the Bavaria statue. More information all about Bavaria's biggest bash is to be found at
Did you know that the custom of the Christmas Tree is purely German? A leftover from pagan times, Germans honored the gods of nature by bringing a tree into the home and decorating it, a custom which was readily embraced by the Catholic church in Rome, as were the old pagan rituals practiced around Easter, the Solstices and many other religious festivals.
Christmas is all of Germany's biggest festive period, kicked off with the observation of Advent on the first Sunday in December. Markets spring up in every city, selling special items pertaining to Christmas, the Advent season and also presents, carvings, cultural artifacts and souvenirs of every description. The "grand-daddy of them all: is traditionally the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremburg.
Higlights of some of the morre important German Christkindl Markets:
For more information and a list of German Christmas markets, go to www.germanchristmasmarkets.org
is what the Germans call New year's Eve. Named after Saint Silvester, said to have been Pope from 314 until he died in Rome on December 31, 335, the party is likely another attempt by the Catholic church to combine old pagan rituals with an overshadowing Christian event, as are many other holidays and traditions such as those found at Christmas, Easter, the Solstices, etc.
Germany's most glamorous, terrific celebration takes place - where else? - in the capital city of Berlin. In 2005, the theme was a kick-off party for the FIFA World Cup events of 2006 focusing on football (soccer to Americans). Traditionally at midnight huge displays of fireworks light up the skies all across the largest German city, while church bells are rung. Open air parties as well as numerous private and public parties, dances, balls and celebrations take place all across the city with live television coverage and an atmosphere which easily rivals that found at New York's Times Square events, marked by a double-cheeked kiss and hearty wishes for a "Guten Rutsch!" or :good slide" into the new year, usually accompanied by a (champagne) toast.
Among the most interesting traditions found still in practice for Silvester is the pouring of lead to predict the upcoming year. Small leaden figurines are melted in a spoon over a candle and the molten lead is then poured into a bucket of cold water. The resulting shape is then interpreted to predict what kind of a year one will have. Traditional interpretations range from an anchor (signifying help when needed) to such bizarre items as the axe (disappointment in love), a ram (expected inheritance), fish or pig (good luck), hat (good news), scissors (important decidion impending) or spider (your luck is hanging by a thread). The custom is still in use although not nearly as common as it once was. Other important traditions often found at parties and larger celebrations include the Feuerzangenbowle, a punch into which alcohol infused sugar cones drip when set ablaze; shooting handguns to scare off evil spirits (now outlawed in most cities including Berlin); throwing dice to (again) predict the upcoming year for prizes ranging from hotdogs through pretzels; and many others.