Holy Fasching Karneval: Part One (the kids)

| February 9, 2013

When we moved to the little town of Dieburg, the realtor mentioned Karneval while showing the house; it seemed to be a selling point.  Turns out we live on the parade route.  The parade itself starts on our corner, about a house away, and the groups wind down our Straβe as they wait to get on down the road.  Once the parade kicks off, we’ll be in it for the long haul.


The festivities and their preparations have been going on for some time now.  The most recent largish event was the Kinderfastnacht children’s parade.  Sequoia declined the opportunity to dress like an elf and walk in the parade with her kindergarten classmates, as she is quite shy and still has no idea what is going on in general (you know, things like “Mommy, why are my friends dressing up like elves and yelling “Dibborsch Äla!” in a parade?”).  So I told her she could sit out this year.  Turns out we’d all be yelling “Äla!” during the parade–it’s a greeting on the street and a call and response during the parade in Dieburg.

Fortunately, Sequoia was curious about the parade and her friends’ involvement in it, so this past Sunday, we walked into town to see what Kinderfastnacht was all about.  We knew the parade was to start at 13:33, but that was about all we knew.  We passed a playing marching band at a restaurant around the corner, then a group of grown men dressed as soup packets.  I began to reminisce about the Mummers.

IMG_1349We arrived in the Karneval-flag-surrounded Marktplatz an hour before the parade was to begin because I wanted to make sure we made it to the right spot, had a good place to stand, etc.  So we grabbed fresh pretzels (I no longer long for a Philly soft pretzel–Sorry, yous) and wandered around–watching groups head toward the parade starting point and taking in the Kinderfastnachtzug parade atmosphere.

When 13:33 drew near, we parked ourselves at a nice spot against a wall to protect us from the cold, with a nice fachwerk parade backdrop, and waited for the parade to begin.

IMG_1354 The first group of children approached: a bunch of kindergartners being led around, corralled in a rope square.  Awesome.  These toddlers were tossing (well, dropping at their own feet) candy.  This is when I noticed that most kids on the sidelines were holding open reusable bags, purses, etc. that they’d brought along.  Basically trick-or-treat bags.  So I opened my giant purse and told Sequoia that when she picked up candy, she could drop it in there.  Which she did, until we snagged a reusable bag that a parade group was handing out.  I was relieved for this windfall when the peanuts showered down on us–they wouldn’t have been a welcome addition to my purse.  (How do you know you’re not at a parade in America?  They’re openly beaning children with peanuts and there are no giant billboards declaring THIS PARADE MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS.)

Sequoia’s class came early on.  She was excited to see them, and more thrilled when her teacher noticed her and threw candy at her. 

IMG_1374IMG_1511The small children and their trail of candy presented a calm event.  As the children in the groups grew larger, the candy began to arrive at increasing heights: pelting your chest, then approaching your head at mach speed, then raining down from above.  One teenage girl nailed the little boy to the left of us in the eye with a piece of candy.  She saw it happen and felt terrible.  That kid was crying, everyone else was scrambling for his candy…you know, a typical parade scene.

It was an interesting mix of costumes.  The smaller children were in the most folksy hand-crafted costumes.  As kids got older, the costumes were slightly more elaborate.  Sometimes one group leader wore the major costume while the members wore the crafted costumes, like one personal favorite, the Playmobil group.  The members all sported the heads of Playmobil figures, along with the rounded hands.  Awesome.

There were gorgeous costumes IMG_1400 IMG_1461

and there were funny costumes

IMG_1421 IMG_1502

and there were cute costumes.

IMG_1448For an hour, 50-some groups passed by in what is the low-key Karneval parade–the actual Karneval parade is this coming Tuesday. Marching bands peppered the groups, keeping us bouncing.  Once the parade started, we didn’t notice the cold.


An official wore just about the best hat I’ve ever seen.  He was also sporting the Karneval scarf that all the cool kids are wearing.  Paul and I have since purchased them.  But the best scarves are the hand-knitted ones the older ladies are wearing, repeating the colors of the flag.  LOVE them. That’s real Karneval right there.IMG_1386

At one point, an adult in a group handed a tiny airplane-sized bottle of liquor to the older woman standing next to Paul.  The old woman gave it to Paul, knowing this was our first Dieburg Karneval.  Unfortunately, it tasted like cough syrup.  I guess it wasn’t so hard for her to give up.

After the Kinderprinzenpaar passed, all the spectators began to head to a local hall,

IMG_1521 IMG_1527where the Kindermaskenball was being held.  There, Sequoia, dressed in her Merida gown (many girls dress as princesses), enjoyed the simplest of childhood pleasures: bouncing a balloon in the air.


IMG_1581She was shy about the other goings-on, such as German children’s songs with motions, and hesitated to join the kids; but she’d headed to the front dance floor as soon as we arrived, eager to seek out the experience in her own way.  She did participate when the kids threw their balloons in a parachute to bounce them around.

We didn’t hang around too long.  Up until that point, we’d had a wonderful Kinderfastnacht experience.  Sequoia hadn’t grown bored during the entire parade and we’d all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  We were hungry for dinner and uncertain of how ordering food went at the tables; Sequoia wasn’t entirely comfortable with the children’s activities yet; and I was sick.  We didn’t want our experience to begin to go downhill, so we headed home.IMG_1591

We definitely want to be more involved next year.  We hope Sequoia will participate in the parade, or be active in some form.  At least we’ll know to take a bag to store the candy next time.  We aren’t sure if she’ll be able to attend the Kindermaskenball at that age, which seems to turn into some sort of pageant or performance?


But she might be into dance by then, so who.knows.

Extra notes-photo-111

KVD is the Karnival Club of Dieburg
The Kinderprinzenpaar visits the little ones as part of their duties – they’ll be visiting Sequoia’s kindergarten on Rosenmontag (the Monday that comes the day before Faschnacht Tuesday).

We are READY.


Category: Ex-pat Parenting, FAMILY, Family Travel, In Germany A Broad blog, karilogue top bar, Karneval, Karneval, Shits & Giggles, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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