Into the Fifth Season

Karneval flags
Mainz Fasching Fountain in Schillerplatz

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and… Karneval. November 11 actually marks the turn of the fifth season, but after New Year’s is when it really starts to get visibly underway. Come January 2, local Karneval clubs raise their primary-colored flags, bakeries decorate with streamers and jesters, and department stores fill with costumes.

Costumes. A must for parade-goers of ALL ages – kids, teens, adults, and seniors alike.

Last year James and I got hats and leis with the colors of the German flag (which came in handy again during World Cup season) but this year we want to go all out. After wading through a sea of capes, silly hats, and animal onesies (ladybugs and bees look particularly popular this year), we came out with a bunch of clown gear. After all, this is a fool’s holiday.

Mainzer Fastnachtsmuseum with jester statue

Then as we watched a Christmas tree that had been tossed to the curb literally blow away in the wind, we made our way to Mainz’s Fastnachtsmuseum to get into the holiday spirit. Fastnacht or Fasching are other words for the Karneval time of year, leading up to and ending with Ash Wednesday. Mainz vies with Köln for throwing the biggest and craziest Karneval celebrations each year, and the city is filled year-round with Karneval-inspired statues. The museum is cozy and filled with colorful costumes, giant caricature heads and videos from parades past, float design boards, and lots of Mainzer history.

Inside the museum

For more description of the fifth season, see What is Fasching All About? where I sum up my first impressions from last year’s celebrations. More on this again in mid-February when the main events take place this year. Helau!

Another Fasching statue in Schillerplatz, Mainz

A New Year in Deutschland

Castle view on New Year's Eve
Castle view on New Year’s Eve

Paper wrappers and cardboard tubes littering the streets. Wooden sticks and the occasional odd pop in the distance. At first glance a heavy fog lay over all of Germany on January 1, but at second glance I realized it was firework dust hanging around us like a thick blanket in the air. Like a bomb had gone off in the night. And it was as though it had at midnight last night, with every single inhabitant lighting off their own personal arsenal to mark the passing of the old year and the issuing in of the new.

We spent this Silvester (New Year’s Eve) with some friends who live on the edge of a vineyard in the Rhein Valley. From our fireworks launching point by their house we had a perfect view of an old castle on a hill, lit up at night not only by ground spotlights but by a barrage of fireworks. Once again, Silvester provided a 360 degree view of personal pyrotechnical displays. Although this year I noticed a lot more pre-New Year’s practices throughout the week and especially on the day leading up to the main event.

Lighting the fuse
Lighting the fuse
Fireworks near and far
Fireworks near and far

I have so many things to be thankful for from the past year, which saw us new and then eventually settled in to living in Germany. I’ve learned a lot of German so far, met people from all over the world including parts of the U.S. I’ve never visited, gotten to know many of James’s German relatives and through them gained a better understanding of German culture, traveled to many German cities and other countries in Europe, and learned to say at least “thank you” and “cheers” in every country we’ve visited.

So what lies ahead for 2015? More travel and language learning, that’s for sure. Lately I’ve been watching Archer in German and picking up some more… colorful… expressions. We already have some travel plans in the works to kick off the new year right: In a few weeks we visit Austria, where James will snowboard and I will try skiing for the first time with the help of two days of lessons. In February we travel to Ireland – a first for James and my triumphant return after my first visit six years ago in which I traveled the tiny countryside on my own for about three weeks. I also plan to work hard to keep in touch with everyone – family and friends in America, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. Technology like Skype and WhatsApp make it a lot easier to keep in touch with people internationally.

2014 was a great year of experiences and accomplishments and I’m ready for what 2015 has to offer. Guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr! / Happy New Year!

p.s. If you haven’t already, be sure to watch “Dinner for One.” For more on this odd German tradition, see my 2014 New Year’s post.