It might seem silly, particularly when we honor our US Veterans on the same day, but serious things were happening today on Weimar’s Market Square. Even if people were wearing Fools’ Hats.
The official beginning of Fasching, known as Carnival most places, was triggered by four “elevens”: the eleventh day of November (11/11), at exactly eleven minutes past eleven a.m. (11:11)
The real festivities start in the cold weeks after Epiphany. Along the Rhine, in cities like Cologne and Koblenz, the craziness of Fasching is legendary; but here in Communist times, the German Democratic Republic dampened such frivolities.
Now, the former East is renewing the tradition. Weimar’s ceremonies today were modest, but regal. A horse-drawn coach bearing the President of the Fools drew into the square, followed by a brass band and the Court of Fools in satin-patched fools caps.
Most striking were the speeches. Confetti and candy are tossed around, but the real glitter comes in the proclamations of barbed verses, sung or proclaimed, and punctuated regularly with a brass “Ta-dah!”
Today’s speeches revealed the citizens’ frustration with a host of reconstruction projects which have Weimar torn asunder: main streets are dug up, cobblestones imported from Vietnam (!) aren’t holding up to German winters, a needed building of the Bauhaus University is stalled, and the Neo-Renaissance Rathaus is due for another reconstruction. That project in particular upsets people since the benefits won’t balance the damage to tourism caused by scaffolding obscuring the landmark building.
So the “fools” roasted the Burgermeister and the Building Committees in verse and song. The Burgermeister had to don construction clothes and lay cobblestones as a penance. There was good-natured laughter, but the undercurrent was not a happy one.
Carnival is known for its social excesses. But its real punch comes from the satire, so jollily pronounced. My friend beamed, saying: “See, they said exactly what they wanted. Not long ago, under Communism, they would have landed in jail.”
So it was a good day.