Floats were due to snake through city streets in Cologne, Mainz and Düsseldorf in the afternoon in front of crowds in fancy dress - many of whom started celebrating on Thursday.
Many of the "Rosenmontag" (Rose Monday) floats feature huge paper mache models which reflected political events.
Scandal-hit politician Sebastian Edathy was the star of one of the floats, while Vladimir Putin bearing a Crimea bomb and tanking motorist association ADAC were also themes of different floats.
A paper mache model of an overweight Chancellor Angela Merkel made an appearance in a revealing black, red and gold bikini – representing the successful German economy, while a feeble French President Francois Hollande was by her side.
A figure of the big-spending Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, trundled through the Mainz streets in a bath tub full of gold, while Edward Snowden also featured between huge eyes and ears.
In Cologne, a troll-like Putin spooked the crowds.
Cologne is the central point of Karneval celebrations, with a 7.5 kilometre-long parade, and 400 tonnes of sweets being thrown out into the crowd.