Despite being urged to by the German Jewish Council as well as former Bavarian ‘MinisterprÃ¤sident’ (comparable to US American ‘governor’) Edmund Stoiber, the city of Munich will not refrain from holding its Carnival parade on Sunday, 27 January 2008 as SÃ¼ddeutsche Zeitung reports. The city of Regensburg, which originally had planned its Carnival parade for that date as well, has already postponed the parade to 3rd February.
So, what is Carnival? In a nutshell, it’s a festival of celebrations before Lent, the forty-day fast preceding the Easter holiday. The folk celebrations likely adopted customary Ancient Roman and Celtic spring parades and their indulgence in food and drinks (and whatever else may happen under the influence). The Easter date in the Western churches is set to be on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring, hence the dates of Carnival (or ‘Shrovetide‘) vary accordingly. This year, the heydays of Carnival are from 31st January through 5th February. Carnival is celebrated differently in different areas, and not all areas celebrate it as excessively as the Rhineland, where the season between 11th November and Shrove Tuesday is generally referred to as ‘the fifth season’.
Medieval Carnival celebrations in Southern Europe left a bad taste in Jewish mouths though as they for a long time involved ridiculing Jews as a way of public entertainment. In Cologne, the capital of German Carnival celebrations, the recent generation of Carnival officials (it’s a multi-billion business all in all, mind you) has undertaken the important step of shedding light on the Nazis’ infiltration of Carnival celebrations and the involvement of Carnival officials with the Nazi authorities as well as anti-Semitism being spread by the means of Carneval in Cologne.
Now, the North, East and Southeast of Germany have never really been known for Carnival celebrations liking to those of the Rhineland, where people dress up in fancy costumes (that’s where the masquerading on Purim likely actually stems from) and celebrate in the streets, at private or public parties for days. But apparently, that cake looked delicious enough for other cities to try to get a few slices as well.
Munich, better known for its Oktoberfest, has had some Carnival celebrations as well, but to a Rhinelander, those are bubkes. This year, the city of Munich plans on and insists on holding its Carnival parade tomorrow, 27 January 2008. Munich’s mayor, Christian Ude (Social Democrats) claims the parade could not be postponed anymore because of legal reasons. As mentioned above, the German Jewish Council as well as former Bavarian governor Stoiber have taken offence at Munich’s insistence on sticking to that date for its parade. Please note, 27th January this year is about one week prior to the actual Shrovetide Sunday and is not one of the main days of Carnival.
As probably all readers know, 27th January marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp and is the date of the international Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1996 former German head-of-state Roman Herzog proclaimed 27th January as the national Holocaust Remembrance Day; the UN followed suit in November 2005. Needless to say, excessive celebrations involving dance, song, alcohol, and lavish feasting do not go well with the sobriety one might find expectable, desirable and appropriate on that day.
What can we do? For now, not much. But in the long run, I suggest you may want to think twice before you go to Munich for Oktoberfest. If they cannot honour your dead there, they certainly should not get to honour your business – and your money – there either.