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Culture

Cologne celebrates start of Carnival season

Carnival revelers were treated to a mostly sunny day in Cologne and other cities in the Rhineland on Sunday for the start of what locals refer to as the fifth season of the year.

Carnival celebrations in Cologne

Karneval in Köln Karnevalsauftakt 2012

At precisely 11:11 in the morning, the Carnival festivities officially began - although crowds of several thousands had gathered long beforehand in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mainz and other cities in the Rhineland. The November 11 celebrations are just a preview of what's to come when Carnival really gets going in February.

For five days leading into Ash Wednesday, cities and towns in the Rhineland turn into a massive party, complete with costumes, parades and a hoard of traditional Carnival songs.

In the weeks between now and the Carnival celebrations in February, Carnival lovers will take the party inside for special Carnival performances and stage shows that highlight the Rhineland's cultural trademark. Then the festivities will spill out into the streets once again with the arrival of "Fat Thursday," the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, when Carnival kicks into high gear once again.

In celebration of last year's sister-city agreement between Cologne and Rio de Janeiro - the two global capitals of Carnival - this year's Carnival motto is "Fastelovend em Blot - he un am Zuckerhot."

Stripped of the rhyme and charm latent in the original (a very dialectical German spoken in the Rhineland), the motto means "Fat Thursday at heart - here and on Sugarloaf Mountain" and refers to the iconic mountain in Rio de Janeiro.

mz/sej (dpa, AFP)