(pronounced, more or less, to ears tuned to English, as “hello”)
Helau! is the salute heard throughout Rosenmontag parades in the Catholic areas of Germany on the Monday before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. That would be today. In the U.S., Rosenmontag’s counterpart is Mardi Gras, but Mardi Gras doesn’t have the reputation of the weeks of parties beforehand organized by the Fasching prince and princess, the planning for which begins on the 11th of November – the 11th minute of the 11th day of the 11th month, to be precise. Fasching’s ‘crazy season’ antics have the same caveat as crazy behavior in Las Vegas,
Rosenmontag is not an official holiday, but is celebrated as if it were. Schools are closed, companies give employees the day off, and the parades are shown on television. A big difference between American celebrations and those in Germany is that the celebrating happens in towns large and small and isn’t centralized. Instead of watching Beyonce and her crew, or the current pop gods and goddesses, townspeople watch local talent. Everybody joins in.
Like Mardi Gras, Rosenmontag is a reason to party. From Christmas/Solstice through New Year, the various incarnations of Groundhog day, the Lunar (Chinese) New Year and on through to St. Patrick’s day, enthusiasm for winter parties is high. Fasching and Rosenmontag may have stemmed from the gloom of northern hemisphere winters and the need to find something to do when working in the fields wasn’t easy, or useful.
Non-Catholic Americans may have already substituted Superbowl parties for winter religious celebrations from centuries past. Tuning out crappy weather by having a party, before cabin fever threatens the happiest of couples, seems to be common enough to almost be a subject worth scientific scrutiny – and wouldn’t a mad scientist make an unusual Fasching party costume.
If you’ve ever daydreamed about visiting Germany, a trip during Fasching — the “fifth season” — is off-season for travel, and hotels won’t be as crowded as during the summer months, or during that big party in one city in early October.
What happens on Rosenmontag, stays on Rosenmontag so you’re allowed to get crazy. And if you can’t afford to travel, click and enjoy.