But this year, events are cancelled.
Due to the pandemic, including the fact that Germany is in a nationwide shutdown for the month of November, the large street parties of carnival can't go ahead.
“Stay at home,” North Rhine-Westphalia interior minister Herbert Reul appealed to citizens. Police will monitor compliance with the coronavirus rules and “consistently intervene in case of violations”, said the Christian Democrat (CDU) politician.
All street celebrations are cancelled this year and a ban on alcohol is in force.
It's a bitter pill for the regions of Germany that celebrate Karneval. It has been an integral part of life in Cologne and many other Catholic cities since the Middle Ages. It is traditionally a time for satire and tomfoolery, when locals dress up as Jecken (fools).
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Cologne's carnival is the biggest in Germany. Millions of people normally turn out on the city's street during the Rosenmontag parade in late winter. But this year it is set to be quiet.
The cancellation is a huge economic blow – from pubs and restaurants to venues, hotels and costume shops, all have suffered losses.
Police will be on duty with several hundred units to ensure bans are observed. A rally against coronavirus protection regulations has also been registered in the city.
But carnival enthusiasts are sending a special signal opposing these demos: the Rote Funken – the oldest traditional Cologne carnival group – plan to raise a plane with a message banner above the city centre. On one side, it will carry the message: “Bliev zohuss” (stay at home) in the regional language. On the other side it will say “stay healthy” in German.
- 'No dancing, no singing': Cologne cancels carnival's traditional first day
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'Not a call to party'
In Düsseldorf, the traditional carnival spirit Hoppeditz awakening is taking place in digital form.
The Düsseldorf Carnival Committee set up the hoppeditz.helau.cc website for this purpose. Instead of climbing out of a pot on the square in front of the town hall in front of several thousand spectators, Hoppeditz actor Tom Bauer will give his speech behind closed doors. The traditional response to Hoppeditz will be given by the new Lord Mayor Stephan Keller.
Meanwhile, the Bund Deutscher Karneval (BDK) is inviting people across the country to the first digital opening – starting around 11.11 am.
“We still want to be present in these times and bring joy into living rooms,” said BDK President Klaus-Ludwig Fess. But this is not a call to party. “People should stay at home and not go out,” he said.
A programme of events will be offered online at www.karnevaldeutschland.de.
Due to the pandemic, large events are cancelled for the carnival session 2020/21. The BDK has around 2.6 million members in more than 5,300 clubs and guilds throughout Germany.