By Christoph Driessen, Frank Christiansen and Ira Schaible, dpa
COLOGNE – The Shrove Monday parades, among the high points of the Carnival season in Germany, began rolling through the cities of Dusseldorf and Cologne on Monday morning for the first time in three years.
The festivities also rolled again in Mainz, with more than 2,000 musicians and 137 floats parading past hundreds of thousands of revelers.
The Carnival floats in this year’s parades included satirical takes on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, among other topics. Cologne, Dusseldorf and Mainz – all along the Rhine river – are famous within Germany for hosting the country’s largest carnival celebrations.
One float depicted Russian President Vladimir Putin as the vampire Nosferatu, pushing the world through the meat grinder and kissing the devil. A float in the Shrove Monday procession in Dusseldorf, located about 45 kilometres down the Rhine, depicted Putin bathing in blood in a tub painted the Ukrainian colours of blue and yellow.
The bald-headed Wagner mercenary army leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was depicted on another denouncing the West for “Nazism” while wearing a Nazi-like armband emblazoned with the Z symbol of the Russian invasion.
Another float in Dusseldorf depicted an Iranian mullah tangled in the uncovered hair of an Iranian woman.
“I think that in bad times you need good subversive satire,” prominent Dusseldorf float-builder Jacques Tilly told dpa ahead of the parade.
Cologne’s Shrove Monday celebrations, also known as Rose Monday in Germany, are marking their 200th anniversary this year. The parade was founded in 1823 by wealthy citizens of Cologne seeking to impose a bit of order on the chaos of Carnival.
The city’s Jewish community was represented in the parade for the first time with a float celebrating 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany.
A lead organizer of the Cologne carnival said the Jewish group’s debut entry, which had been planned for the cancelled 2021 parade, was an opportunity to reflect on how satirical carnival groups had largely embraced anti-Semitic views during the Nazi era.
The parades were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2022, there was a massive demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Parade organizers in Dusseldorf broke the usual secrecy around float designs in the hopes that a show of support for action on climate change might deter climate activists from disrupting the parade route.
One float, revealed ahead of time on Friday, depicts an activist from the Last Generation climate protest group fighting to save the planet from coal excavators, heavy industry and choking traffic. The group is known for gluing themselves to streets and disrupting major events.
Last Generation responded with a statement that criticized parade organizers for being more concerned over whether activists disrupt the parade than the idea “that we will no longer be able to ensure the supply of drinking water and food in 20 years.”
The group didn’t say whether they had planned any protest actions for the parade.