Carnival in
Mainz, Germany

Mainz Carnival Parade happens o the Monday before Shrove Tuesday - no matter what the weather

Rain, sunshine or snow, the Mainz Carnival culminates in the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) Parade.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Gott Jokus

Fastnacht or Fashing is the local name for Mainz Carnival and it is not locallycalled the 5th season for nothing, as it is a time where locals who enter into the nonsense that is carnival do so with gusto and the whole city takes on a carnival spirit.

The Parade Marshal is escorted by giant steeds ridden by young cadets of the carnival associations.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Marshal

The real horses follow along the parade route.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag horse

Mainz carnival - a 5 hour parade

On the Monday before Shrove Tuesday, the traditional Rosenmontag Parade that is the focal point of the whole Mainz Carnival season takes at least five hours to pass.

Mainz-Carnival-Parade-Rosenmontag-Ranzengarde-Band

 There are masses of bands and flag twirlers.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag flag garde

The Gardes march in their hundreds. Gardes are like the Carnival Krewes of New Orleans - associations that undertake charitable community works throughout the year and march en masse and in fantastic uniforms during Mardi Gras or Carnival.

The Carnival associations uniforms hark back to the early 19th century being then parodies of those of the occupying forces who from time to time have occupied Mainz, which since Roman times has been a strategic Rhineland city.

Mainz Carnival Parade Band Rosenmontag

Glockenspiel

Carnival Association members follow behind their silver Glockenspiel.

Mainz Carnival Parade Ranzengarde Glockenspiel

…each of particular design…

Mainz Carnival Parade Volunteer Firemen Glockenspiel

The Political Heads of Mainz Carnival

The political heads are giant caricatures of the politicians of Rheinland Palatinate German state of which Mainz is the capital.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag politics

Floats, bands. and batons

 There are troops of baton twirlers, some high-stepping.

Mainz Carnival Parade strutting baton troop

Others are a swirl of colour and feathery hats: dancing baton twirlers.

Mainz Carnival Parade Baton Troop

Being used to a parade in an English speaking world I marvelled at the good behaviour of the crowd in letting the parade travel unobstructed despite frivolity on the frings. No security officers every few paces saying what you are not allowed to do - just an expectation that people will behave as one would wish.

I had heard that, like in Mardi Gras in New Orleans, out-of-town-visitors come to the city to get drunk and behave badly - and generally that takes place in a particular area of a few blocks in the centre of the city.

The other remarkable thing beside the sheer number and size of the bands, was the magnificence of the floats but the fact that where we have float, people, float, people, band, float, float, float, float band -  here in Mainz carnival it is pretty much: float, band, float band.floats.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag horse-drawn float

A visiting friend from England, herself a brass-band member, was over-awed by the sheer number of bands.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag bands and float

…from the relatively traditional…

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag clown band

…and colourful visiting bands from elsewhere, like this one from Switzerland…

Mainz Carnival Parade Swiss band

…to that of the madly danceable and hypnotically slightly off-melody Guggemusik Bands…

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Guggemusik band

…and the number of band members in each of them.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag blue band

While apparently the English find it difficult to gather together enough to make a decent band, each local community around Mainz takes great pride in developing its band music.

This is an important accent to the many occasions that the people of Rhineland Pfalz find to celebrate – the 5th season of Carnival being just one of the bigger parties.

Mainz Carnival Parade Mexican band

In English brass bands there are usually no trumpets.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag band-trumpeters

…which is not the case for Germany, where the trumpet is a favourite of local brass bands

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag brass band trumpets

..whether playing the slightly off melody Guggemusik – imported from Switzerland and its border German states…

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag band Guggemusik trumpets

…or by other dark imports from the mountain regions, where Fastnacht or Carnival is a time to ward off the mountain spirits.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag masked trumpeter

Even well-planned confetti at Mainz Carnival

There are showers of tape-like confetti that, as in Switzerland, is all of one colour.

The confetti was introduced to replace the candies that were thrown from earlier parades but banned for a time.

The philosophy about it being one colour was that if it was picked off the street to be thrown again, it would be recognisable as such –as if it were multi-coloured, it would be hard to distinguish between the fresh confetti and that mixed with rubbish from the street.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag confetti

All sorts of treats are thrown for the children who wait expectantly …some with their bags all ready for the booty

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag clowns and children

…but the big kids keep their goodies in more creative storage, like the hoods of jackets….

Mainz Carnival Parade creative storage

… and are sometimes thrown things that are definitely not meant for children.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Carnival throw

The political and non political floats of Mainz carnival

The Mainz Rosenmontag Parade was not always political, but since the mid 1800s, it has been an opportunity for social comment. 

Mainz Carnival is known to be the most political of carnival celebrations in Germany.

It is all taken in good humour by the local politicians who are lampooned in the various sitzungs or 'sittings' where crowds of people all in costume listen to a sort of cabaret of satire – all in verse, intermixed with performances by local talent and favourite Fastnacht performers.

The pinnacle of these is the 'Mainz sings and laughs' Sitzung that is televised. It is a favourite group-watch event of the 5th season. Friends gather at someone’s home to listen to the doggerel and laugh along.

But satire and lampooning is not limited to the local political scene. In the past it has included many major political events outside Germany – here with Obama’s election in the USA…

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Obama Float

…and a useful play on the election phrase “Yes. We can!” …with a metaphor involving Viagra!

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Viagra

The Banking crisis has been a source of satire for several years…

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Bad Banker float

…and the “Financial bail outs” also are an ongoing source of Mainz carnival float themes.

Mainz Carnival Parade Rosenmontag Financial Bailout

Of course the floats also take a pot shot at the same problems others find in their local communities – bad diet…

Mainz Carnival Parade Bad Diet Float

…and the whole debate over swine flu…here seen to have radical side effects!

Mainz Carnival Parade Swine Flu Float

Not all floats are political. Some just celebrate the various guilds – such as this one for the German Master Butchers and Smallgoods makers, the Metzgerei, who throw good German Wurst (salami) to the hungry crowds.

Mainz Rosenmontag Metzgerei

Some floats are delights for the young audience…

Mainz Rosenmontag kinder float

… some reflect immigrant pride…

Mainz Rosenmontag Mexican float

…and some are just plain fun.

Mainz Rosenmontag ship

Birds, ballo0ns and wildlife on parade in Mainz Carnival

Whether it is a group of chicks…

Mainz Rosenmontag Parade chicks

…balloonists…

Mainz Rosenmontag balloonists

…giraffe…

Mainz Rosenmontag giraffe

…ladies who brought their bed quilts and windows with them…

Mainz Rosenmontag quilt ladies

…or the traditional cavemen who annually bare themselves to the elements, regardless of the weather: a good time is had by all.

Mainz Rosenmontag cavemen

A ducky end tot he Rosenmontag parade of Mainz

By the time the Ente (duck) arrived to announce the Ende (end)

Mainz Rosenmontag Ente

…there was plenty of rubbish on the streets.

The fastest cleanup of the carnival parade aftermath in Mainz

Mainz Carnival Parade Clown Family

As the crowd wandered to its next party location to end out Mainz Carnival, the clean-up teams were hard at work.

With German efficiency, within twenty minutes the streets were swept clean.

Mainz Carnival Parade Cleanup

This left some people wondering where all the magic had gone!

Mainz Carnival Parade is over

But as science fiction author Frank Herbert said:

There is no real ending.

It’s just the place

where you stop the story.


Other Mainz pages

Carnival in Mainz

Carnival Mass

Carnival Costumes

Childrens' Carnival

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