Carnival in Germany: 7 Carnival Celebrations + 20-Word Vocabulary for Fasching

Karneval, or Carnival in Germany is one of the biggest and most celebrated festivals in the German culture.

Easy German made a great video on why people celebrate Carnival in Germany:

Karneval is a time for letting loose, enjoying good foods and drinks, enjoying the fun that carnival brings. In this blog post, we’ll share the best towns and cities to celebrate the carnival, and even share some of the most important chunks related to the festivities.

1. Carnival in German: what is it?

The Carnival season officially starts on November 11th at 11:11 am.

The main celebrations happen in the week before Lent, known as the “crazy days” or “Tolle Tage.”

The highlight of this is Rose Monday, the day before Shrove Tuesday, when the biggest parades and parties take place.

During the Karneval, people dress up in fancy costumes and masks, a lot of the mattend balls, and even participate in town parades and street festivals. And what about the costumes?

They can be anything from traditional folk costumes to creative, satirical outfits that poke fun at politicians.

Carnival is famous in the Rhineland region, in cities like Cologne, Mainz, and Munich. But let’s explore them one by one!

2. 7 Carnival celebrations in Germany

Cologne (Köln)

Köln is considered the Carnival capital of Germany!

street carnival in germany, cologne

It hosts one of the biggest and most famous Carnival celebrations. The highlight is, of course, the grand parade on Rose Monday with colorful floats and costumes.


This city in the Rhineland-Palatinate region is another major Carnival hub.

Munich (München)

While not traditionally a Carnival stronghold, Munich is also hosting large parades, costume balls, and other famous events.


This small town in Baden-Württemberg is famous for its unique Carnival tradition called “Narrensprung” (Fools’ Jump), where costumed figures jump from an 8-meter-high platform!


Located in Baden-Württemberg, Mannheim is known for its satirical and political floats during the Carnival parades.


The capital of North Rhine-Westphalia hosts another lively Carnival celebration.


This city near the Belgian border is known for its traditional Carnival celebrations, including the “Funkenbiwak” event, where participants dress up as Prussian soldiers.

3. The largest carnival in Germany: Cologne

The largest and most famous Carnival celebration in Germany is in Cologne (Köln).

The Cologne Carnival is a cultural tradition that you have to know about, if you’re learning German. It’s one of the basic things you have to experience in Germany.

carnival in germany with street parades and costumes

It’s one of the biggest folk festivals in Europe (if not the biggest), and it attracts over a million visitors each year. The highlight of the event is the week leading up to Ash Wednesday – Die Tollen Tagen.

On Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), they hold the grand parade with over 10,000 participants, marching bands and dance troupes – the route they go through is over 7 kilometers long!

4. Carnival traditions

Now, of course, there are Carnival traditions that we already mentioned and ones we didn’t… yet! Let’s go over them together and after that, check some of the most important vocabulary related to these parties.

  1. Costumes and masks are used with popular themes like folk costumes, political satire and animals
  2. Parade floats reflect on current (political) events
  3. Participants throw candies and toys to crowds
  4. Each season has popular songs and dances
  5. Traditional greetings like “Alaaf!” (Cologne) and “Helau!” (Mainz) are used
  6. Many cities elect a Carnival Prince and Princess to lead celebrations
  7. On Weiberfastnacht (Thursday before Rose Monday), women playfully storm town halls and cut men’s ties
  8. A “Nubbel” figure representing past troubles is burned
  9. Berliner Pfannkuchen (jelly doughnuts) are a popular treat
  10. Traditional Carnival societies organize events and parades

These customs and traditions have been passed down for generations and are part of the Carnival experience in Germany. And knowing these traditions should be part of your language learning journey, too!

5. Parade, Rose Monday, street carnival – carnival vocabulary

What are some of the most important words you have to know about Carnival in Germany? Effortless Conversations has got you covered!

der KarnevalCarnival
der FaschingCarnival (term used in southern Germany)
der NarrFool/Jester
das KostümCostume
die MaskeMask
der UmzugParade
der WagenFloat
die KamelleCandy thrown during parades
die BüttenredeSatirical speech/comedy act
das PrinzenpaarPrince and Princess of Carnival
die MöhnenTraditional Carnival figures in Cologne
Alaaf!Carnival greeting in Cologne
Helau!Carnival greeting in Mainz and other regions
der RosenmontagRose Monday (highlight of Carnival week)
die WeiberfastnachtWomen’s Carnival Day (Thursday before Rose Monday)
die NarrenkappenJester’s hats worn during Carnival
das KonfettiConfetti
die Berliner PfannkuchenJelly-filled doughnuts (a Carnival treat)
die SitzungCarnival committee meeting/event
das FunkenmariechenFamous dance group in Cologne Carnival

But what does it all matter if you can’t use them in real-life situations? Let’s look out for Karneval-vocabulary in these sentences:

  1. Während des Karnevals tragen die Menschen bunte Kostüme und Narrenkappen. [During Carnival, people wear colorful costumes and jester’s hats.]
  2. In Köln begrüßen sich die Narren mit dem Ruf “Alaaf!”, in Mainz sagt man “Helau!”. [In Cologne, the fools greet each other with the call “Alaaf!”, in Mainz, they say “Helau!”.]
  3. Am Rosenmontag ziehen die prächtigen Wagen mit den Möhnen durch die Straßen von Köln. [On Rose Monday, the magnificent floats with the traditional Cologne figures parade through the streets.]
  4. Die Berliner Pfannkuchen sind eine beliebte Karnevalsköstlichkeit, die mit Konfetti und Kamelle genossen wird. [The Berliner Pfannkuchen (jelly-filled doughnuts) are a popular Carnival treat enjoyed with confetti and candy.]
  5. Das Prinzenpaar wird während einer feierlichen Sitzung gekrönt und führt den Karnevalsumzug an. [The Prince and Princess are crowned during a ceremonial event and lead the Carnival parade.]
  6. Die Büttenreden sind satirische Darbietungen, in denen Politiker und aktuelle Ereignisse aufs Korn genommen werden. [The Büttenreden are satirical performances that poke fun at politicians and current events.]
  7. Die Funkenmariechen sind eine berühmte Tanzgruppe, die bei den Karnevalsveranstaltungen in Köln auftritt. [The Funkenmariechen is a famous dance group that performs at Carnival events in Cologne.]

Now, there’s one more trick that can help you learn more about Carnival in Germany:

6. Practice Carnival vocabulary in German

Fill in the blanks in this funny little exercise!

This was just a preview of what we have to offer. If you’re eager to learn more, click the button below, request access to our Practice Worksheet Library, and see our 7-in-7 German challenge that will start you on your fluency journey!

7. Everything you need to know about carnival with Conversation Based Chunking

Carnival in Germany is a cultural extravaganza!

On Effortless Conversations, we advocate for a type of language learning that not only focuses on the language itself but also the culture. And what’s the best way to learn more about it?

It’s based on a contextual learning method called Conversation Based Chunking!

If you engage in natural dialogues, break them down into manageable chunks, you understand how native speakers use these natural building blocks of the language!

Sign up now and get your first German Conversation Based Chunking Guide, and learn more about a method that will make your language learning journey easier!

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