Carnival: How Germany is celebrating Rosenmontag in lockdown

Clowns, political floats and lots of shouting: Rosenmontag is usually a massive celebration in parts of Germany. Here's what's happening this year in the pandemic shutdown.

Carnival: How Germany is celebrating Rosenmontag in lockdown
Unna's Helmut Scherer is known for putting on the world's smallest carnival procession, which is pandemic friendly. Photo: DPA

It's fair to say that Rosenmontag is usually one of the biggest street parties in the parts of Germany that celebrate carnival, including Cologne and Düsseldorf.

But – unsurprisingly – this year things are very different. Due to the pandemic and ongoing lockdown restrictions, the big parades are cancelled.

Carnival events are understood to have fuelled the spread of Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic in Germany, leading to a rising number of cases in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) as well as a number of deaths.

READ ALSO: 'You can't cancel carnival': How can Germany celebrate street festival in coronavirus times?

The last time Rosenmontag parades were axed in Düsseldorf and Mainz was in 2016 due to hurricane-force winds.

In Cologne, the last cancelled parade was in 1991: back then, carnival revellers decided to forego the procession because of the Gulf War.

So how are some of these places going to celebrate?

This year although the huge street parties are cancelled, the spirit of carnival is still alive – and many people might just spend the day in fancy dress in their home.

In Cologne there is a very small substitute: from 2pm broadcaster WDR will show the Rosenmontag procession in miniature form – as a production of the Hänneschen puppet theatre.

A 32-metre-long backdrop of Cologne's old town has been erected in the carriage construction hall of the Cologne Carnival Festival Committee.

READ ALSO: The calls you'll hear at Carnival – and what they mean

According to the festival committee, the small procession has everything that its big brother has. This includes floats with motifs, dance groups and, of course, spectators.

The floats by the Hänneschen procession show, among others, the pandemic health experts Karl Lauterbach, Christian Drosten and Hendrik Streeck who have all become high profile this year.

In true Karneval form, they also make fun of habits that emerged this year such as panic buying – Hamsterkauf in German.

A miniature Rosenmontag float showing a hamster with toilet paper rolls in Cologne. Photo: DPA

There is also a ray of hope for the Jecken in Düsseldorf. There, eight designs by famous float builder Jacques Tilly will be on display.

According to the Düsseldorf Carnival Committee, the sculptures will be placed in the city centre for about two hours. They will not be driven through the streets in a convoy, but individually on three different routes.

They're doing it this way because the carnival organisers want to prevent groups of spectators from gathering on streets and rules being violated.

READ ALSO: Düsseldorf Helau! How I embraced the Rhineland's carnival celebrations

'Bang the drum despite lockdown'

Otherwise Rosenmontag is for many people a normal working day in the carnival strongholds this year.

The Cologne University Hospital, however, is giving its employees Rosenmontag as a free “thank you day”. This is to honour the extraordinary commitment of the employees this year.

In the small city of Unna, meanwhile, the celebrations are going ahead as planned. That's because they are pandemic-friendly anyway.

Pensioner Helmut Scherer is known for putting on the world's smallest carnival procession. For more than six decades, he has been parading through the city centre on Rosenmontag by himself (or with a very small crew of one other).

To avoid crowds of spectators at the roadside, the 86-year-old has moved his solo spectacle to the city's hospital grounds this year:

“That way I can also bring a little joy to the patients there during this time,” Scherer told DPA. His motto this year is: “Bang the drum despite lockdown”.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”