History of Karneval

One of the important German traditions celebrated by Spielmannszug Minnesota is our celebration of the Karneval Season. Many people in the United States are familiar with Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but few are aware that in Europe, Karneval and Mardi Gras have been celebrated for centuries. The Grecians celebrated Mardi Gras in the form of Spring festivals as early as the 6th century B.C. In medieval times the "Feast of Fools" was celebrated as the last opportunity for merrymaking and excessive indulgence in food and drink before the Solemn Lenten Season. In some areas of Europe the Mardi Gras became a theatrical demonstration that denoted the common people's satire on the monarchy and its oppressive government. It was an effective way of mocking the government without being punished. Thus the humorous jabs at the drudgery of everyday life; the 'sinister' prime minister (our Elferrat) representing the royal cabinet; the fun loving Garde; the Policeman (Schutzmann), and the Master of Ceremonies all mimicking the royalty of medieval times, who lived in grandeur at the people's expense.

Since the Karneval originated as a mocking of Royalty, of course we must have our own Royal Couple or "Prinzenpaar" ruling over our Mardi Gras 'government.' With them comes their royal court of "Hofstaat." The Prinz (Seine Tollit├Ąt) and Prinzessin (Ihre Lieblichkeit) are crowned at the start of the season in November and rule until Shrove Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Their Court consists of the "Hofmarshall" (Prinz's Grand Marshall), the "Adjutant" (Prinzessin's Attendant), the "Hofdame" (Maid of the court), and the "Mundschenkin" (Toastmistress and keeper of the wine!).

Each government has ordinances. In the 'Karneval' government, the number eleven plays a key role in the Mardi Gras ordinances. The first "official" day of Karneval is on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. All gatherings and proclamations are supposed to begin at the eleventh hour in the eleventh minute. There are eleven ministers in the cabinet (Elferrat). Some of their honorable titles include Minister for the Lonesone Ladies, Minister for the Inebriated, Minister for the Feinschmecker, and so on.....