In Germany, the carnival season is sometimes referred to as “the fifth season”. Mainz is one of the three centers of the so-called Rhenish Carnival, along with Cologne and Düsseldorf. The tradition of the carnival dates back to the 13th century, but the Mainz carnival association (Mainzer Carneval-Verein) was officially founded in 1838. The main features of the carnival have not changed much since then.
The Mainz carnival, just like all over carnivals throughout Germany, begins on November, 11 at 11:11 a.m.. Although the festivities start almost immediately, the event peaks around Rosenmontag (the Shrove Monday, also known as Mardi Gras in some countries) and ends on Ash Wednesday.
The Mainz Carnival features parades and celebrations which are typical of carnival traditions in many countries. But it is most known for its unusual emphasis on political humor and commentary. During the 19th century it was used as an opportunity to mock the military forces that occupied the city's fortress. Today, the Mainz carnival, especially its parade, is a safe outlet for political dissent.
The Rosenmontag parade (Mainzer Rosenmontagszug) with its floats and marching bands is the carnival's main attraction. It is highly renowned among Germany's carnival parades. The parade was first recorded on film in 1910 and is often broadcast live nationwide. The Mainz carnival parade is more informal than many events of its kind. Instead of simply watching the parade, anyone can join in to walk the parade route for some time. Official marchers can be very informal about their roles, too. Sometimes they even drink beer while riding parade floats. The event has a special carnival cry, Helau!, that originates from Düsseldorf and was introduced in 1938.
Photo by Sylvi.