Tuesday, 11 November 2014

helau! helau! helau! oder elfter-elfter


By chance I found myself just across the Rhine in the city of Mainz, and was caught up in the thronging crowds and pushed towards Schillerplatz, where hundreds of spectators, many in costume, had gathered to watch the Lord Mayor usher in the so-called Fifth Season (fünfte Jahreszeit) of Fasching. The countdown started just seconds before the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour, and singing and cheers followed before a series of speeches, mostly wishes for good health in this time of abundance and abandon that lasts until Ash Wednesday and references to the friendly rivalry with Wiesbaden on the other side of the river, delivered by the prominent personalities assembled on the balcony of the Osteiner Hof above.
It was fun to watch and shout with the merry-makers, some already using this get-together as a chance to plan and coordinate what they would do for the closing parade that would take place in early Spring on what is called Rosamontag, just a couple days before the onset of Lent, and sort of felt like the time I was in Times Square to see the ball drop. I did wonder though about the timing and placement of the whole opening ceremony, with it coinciding with Armistice Day, which is not generally commemorated in Germany but what with the so-called Schicktsalstag a couple of days prior left sacrosanct, but eleven (Elf) became associated with the Rhenish carnival traditions as a lucky number as it was also an initialism of the rallying cry of the French Revolution of egalité, liberté, fraternité, where the trappings of the season and festivities came from in the first place.