It is a time of elaborate parades, masks, balls and election of Carnival king and queen and official madness. Carnival is often called the fifth season.

The festival itself is variously known as Karneval (Rhineland), Fassenacht (Mainz), Fasching (Bavaria) and Fastnacht or Fasnet (South West Germany), and the different names denote totally different forms of celebration.

Carnival dancing girl (Tanzmariechen) in Cologne
Carnival dancing girl (Tanzmariechen) in Cologne© picture-alliance/ dpa

The chief towns famous for their Carnival spectaculars are Aachen, Cologne, Duesseldorf, Mainz, Munich and Muenster, but even smaller localities put on their own celebrations, not to mention the many parties held in schools, youth clubs and places of work.

Cologne’s Rose Monday carnival parade is an unforgettable experience. 10,000 people throw “Kamelle und Strüßcher” (sweets and flowers) from the floats to the revelling crowds along a seven-kilometre route.

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