Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

love and fools

Is it a coincidence that the holiday for fools and the holiday for lovers are at the same time of year?

Today is the end of carneval, here on the west side of the Rhein. It has been a month of craziness, lots of partying, and many people running around the streets dressed foolishly. I was part of that group last Thursday, for the Alt Weiber Fastnacht (old maids carnival). I went with some fun mädels (young-at-heart- women) led by minnie.

The silliness started at 11am I, dressed up in my fave pink wig and a crazy dress, had to stop first at the bank before meeting up with the others. On the street, people started yelling, ‘hello! hello!’. I thought, ‘well, isn’t that friendly’. So, I returned the hellos. After about the 5th or 6th person it finally clicked that they weren’t saying ‘hello’, but rather ‘Helau!’ the hearty greeting of carnival here. What a fool.

I arrived at the café only to find that the mädels were accidentally all wearing the same black sheep costume. Sheep costumes are very popular, and I have absolutely no idea why. I began to think where I could possibly find some sort of shepherd’s staff, you know then I could be their foolish-looking shepherdess. To no avail. In the end though, nobody really cares what you look like, cause they are just focusing on not falling over.

It all starts with the number ‘11’ here. Back in the early 1800’s, Napoleon’s cry for ‘Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité - "equality, liberty, fraternity" reached the west side of the Rhein. The citizens here were finally able to enjoy freedom of speech and expression under French rule. After Napoleon’s defeat however, the conservative German returned everything back to normal...for most of the year. Using the number ‘11’, as inspiration for everything carneval-related, taken from the first letter of each of Napoleon’s famous words, in German spelling the word for ‘11’-elf, the citizens ‘secretly’ formed the council of fools, 11 elected men who set the carneval calendar and plan all the crazy fools balls and parades. They use this time, disguised in costume, to ‘rebel’ against the regime; to say and do whatever they feel like, making fun of politicians and clergy, and each other. Where the cry ‘Helau!’ comes from, nobody really seems to know.

In honour of Valentine’s day, which I happened to cruise over, here are 11 ways ‘to love’ in 2 words:

1) dig deep
2) keep creating
3) make something
4) laugh together
5) be kind
6) smile often
7) be strong
8) and bend
9) give/take
10) count blessings
11) say thank you (sorry, that’s three...but it might also be the most important)

plus 1 foolishly simple, yet profoundly great quote:

‘true happiness is sustainable delight in the beautiful moments of ordinary life.’
-Martha Beck.

go forth and love, you fools!
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