It’s February and in Düsseldorf that means only one thing – it’s Carnival time. There’s confetti in the street. Trams are packed with men wearing animal onesies. Elaborate wigs bob along suburban streets and leaving home without decorative face paint is to set out into the world unprepared.
The Carnival season kicks off in November with a ‘Hoppeditz’ or awakening. Jesters poke fun at the political establishment and planning begins in earnest for the festival that will reach its climax on February 12th with the Rose Monday parade. It is a festival that has its roots in pagan times, evolving with the advent of Christianity. Rituals celebrate the last days of a long winter; a subverting of the darkness, and a shaking up of the order of things. In the early days it was a celebration of light triumphing over darkness, of good over evil, when the natural order could be turned on its head. In later centuries it would take on a political dimension and come to incorporate a means of mocking the establishment.
Amidst the colour and sequins and feathers and face paint the origins of subversion and humour are most notably upheld in the highly politicised floats from the workshop of Jacques Tilly.
Since 1984, Tilly has been constructing Rose Monday floats that provide sharp and satirical commentary on the state of German and International politics. Not surprisingly, in 2017, Donald Trump and democracy were featured on several of Tilly’s floats with parade goers left in no doubt as to Tilly’s views on the new US Government. Expect this year to again feature some hard hitting statements.
But beyond Trump, and Brexit and all the rest, more importantly, it is a time of festivities; a chance to cut loose and dress up. Bands play, people dance and candy rains down upon eager children. It is a time to celebrate and to look forward to warmer days to come. And to hope perhaps, that next year things might be different.