It’s Monday morning here in Gutenberg land.
The first real working day after all the holidays,
at least for those not in sales,
or emergency, ie fire department, police, or hospital, duty.
And one of our first communications with the outside world this morning,
at least paper communication,
was a reminder in our mailbox to buy our “Zugplakettche”
the figurine you buy for just under five Euros
from a street vendor,
or carnival “military” unit.
(carnival over here is,
rather than the “let the good times roll” of the States,
or of Rio,
primarily a political happening-
a series of shtick, stand-up comedy and edgy songs,
and yes, high percentage booze DOES play a role,
as a way of taking the mickey out of the governement without getting yourself in trouble,
(easier when masked.) )
And the participating entertainers have to be members of a “corporation,”
or “military unit,”
each unit paying homage to one of the many different battles fought here in Gutenberg Land,
ie the “castle watch,”
in what look like white palace guard uniforms from an operetta,
the “hessians”- think 1776 redcoats,
or the supply officers
(whose men wear bulky skirts, the kind of dust caps worn by Victorian cooks, and carry rolling pins)
And since this is all a participation sport-
with can-can groups,
and men’s can-can groups,
making fun of the Frenchification,
when the Gutenbergers declared a republic,
and were promptly smashed by the too strong nobility-
as in: especially the non-active participants,
has to pay for all the fun being had.
in addition to taxes,
is done through the “Zugplakettche.”
And which, as a dutiful Gutenberger, you are expected to buy,
from now to Ash Wednesday, on a string around your neck
or else risk get attacked in public by members of the constantly policing “Corporations”,
the carnival groups
or their sales people,
dressed in clown costume,
or corporation jacket,
recruted to stand on every third corner,
and shame people
for not (yet) financially supporting the Carnival season.
opened officially on November eleventh at eleven eleven am
(German: elf, eleven =egalite, liberte, fraternite)
closed for the religious holidays,
then opening up again- today-
and running till Rose Monday,
rose being an old form for Russ,
the German word for the black soot you get as a by-product when you burn the blessed palm fronds from the previous Palm Sunday to make the white ash used to mark the cross on the forehead of believers.
The remaining black smudge then being handed out to camoflage faces.
As the Catholic church,
as far as I can tell, not being Catholic,
is Very involved in the whole carnival thing.
Starting with the fact that the last Pope before this one, gave an audience to a company of “guards” in full uniform in the Vatican.
And perhaps best exemplified by Carl Zuckmeyer’s famous 1959 mystery story,
so popular it was made into a film in 1960,
and an opera in 1983,
all three named “Die Fastnachtsbeichte-” (the carnival confession)
“beichte” being the confession of sins to a priest required before taking communion on Ash Wednesday.
(And there are a LOT of jokes here about the lines around the Cathedral Wednesday mornig, and special crews of priests flown in to handle it all)
(And the population growth surge every year, just in time for the new campaign in November.)
And if you think I’m kidding,
take a look at the number of newborns,
in carnival corporation blankets,
who actually ride in small cribs on a parade float.
And then there are the visitors.
Over a million people come to see the Rose Monday parade each year.
A huge contingent from other countries-
European Union, and outside,
take part by marching,
or have pom-pom girls,
or twirlers of monstrously huge flags,
or are one of the groups that wears huge wooden witches heads and costumes stuffed with straw,
or bear skins ala Flintstones
and nothing else.
(The US sends a military marching band, in uniform-no hats, a very popular unit here, since they play dixie and swing and everyone dances on the streets)
And then there are the huge number of low-participation spectators,
like Harold and I,
who stand in the three-deep line along the parade route,
(or in our secret place-you don’t think I’d tell you, do you?)
wearing an improvised costume,
and the special tag for the year on a string around our necks.
And this year, if you can believe it,
the carnival’s unofficial,
but more popular that the real ones,
symbol of the city of Moguntia is:
a grinning hot dog, with his arms around an ever broader grinning local form of hard roll,
and on the other side, a slightly stupored looking, also grinning, bottle of wine.
Weck, worscht un Woi,
We’re a comfortable bunch here in Gutenberg land.
And we love our parades.
Or meeting in pubs to watch it on the big screens.
Or inviting people to our homes for the view and a big party afterwards.
And then, of course, there are the other,
half of the populace,
who rent out their appartments to strangers,
especially the rooms with balconies facing the parade,
for up to three or more months rent,
and then go skiing,
or to Majorca,
even just out to a quiet place in the woods,
for a walk,
a cheese sandwich,
and to observe Father Rhine in his bed.
But that’s another Carnival song.
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