Monday, 7 March 2011

Einzug mit Narrhalla-Marsch!!!! (Carnival in the Rhine valley... and every week in Oxford?)

Today is "Rosenmontag", the most important day of the carnival season in the Rhine valley. Inspite of that, I had to go to work today, and even worse, I had to wear my normal clothes!! Not a single "Helau" was to be heard in the streets of Cambridge ("Helau" is the carnival-outcry of my region, it usually comes in threes) and not a single shot of Schnaps was offered to me in the streets. I pity myself!!!!! ;-)

I have been living abroad for almost ten years now, but it's the carnival week-end that brings with it the highest waves of home-sickness (so does the wine-week, which I describe here, but that's not until August). You would expect Christmas to be worse, but it's not. I should have booked a flight home!

Maybe it's because I was born on the 11th of November, which marks the beginning of the carnival season every year. It starts exactly at 11.11am (I was born at 11.51am) and lasts until Ash Wednesday (as you may have gathered, eleven is the official number of the carnival). Of course we used to celebrate the carnival every year for longer than I can remember. In my teens, I even danced in the show-ballet of a carnival club for a few years. No wonder I am so attached to it!

Every year it's strange for me to spend this week-end calm and quietly, rather than out in the streets dressed in a costume at one of the many carnival parades in my region. The only carnivalesque thing I managed to do this week-end was to have a doughnut, which represents the closest substitute available in the UK to a carnival cake (in my region, we call them "Kreppel", see blow). The crappy doughnut I managed to find did not taste good, but it felt good!

There is one more essential element of the carnival to mention here, and it's just as ridiculous as the rest of the carneval: the Narrhalla-Marsch. It's a piece of music you hear all the time in the Mainzer carnival (Mainz is one of the most important carnival towns, just on the other side of the Rhine from my hometown Wiesbaden). During the carnival shows (evenings where people dress up and watch a show with funny speeches and dances and stuff), the Narrhalla-Marsch accompanies the entrance and exit of every show act:

During my time in Oxford, when I had high-table dining rights at Somerville College, I was reminded of the Narrhalla-Marsch during every formal dinner. When the members of the Senior Common Room entered to walk up to the high table, all the students stood up until we had taken our seats in silence. With all the fellows marching in like this, I always felt it was a Narrhalla-Marsch moment. It made me laugh, and once I had thought of it, the Narrhalla-Marsch would play in my head whenever I'd enter hall during formals. Now you know why I was smiling then.

My current college does not have a high table, and even if it did I would not be allowed to sit on it... So bad doughnuts are all I have to remind me of the carnival, until I buy a ticket home next year to join in the celebrations once more!

Exit with Narrhalla-Marsch.


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