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Quirky carnival traditions

The carnival can be found in many places in the world and usually creates a relaxed atmosphere in the European winter months. Even though nowadays the celebration with dance, music and carnival parades is often the centre of attention, old traditions are still preserved. Carnival has its origins in Christianity and rings in the Lent before Easter. While candy is tossed to the crowds in Cologne, Mainz and other celebratory stronghold, two teams in Piedmond start throwing oranges at each other. Unusual carnival traditions – the orange throwers are not alone…

Oranges against tyrants

They protect themselves with helmets and shields and compete in a battle with a long tradition. On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, in the Italian city of Ivrea (Piedmont) with its 25,000 inhabitants, two competing groups with a total of around 3,000 participants battle each other with flying fruit – they throw oranges. This spectacle has its origins in the Middle Ages when citizens of the city used these “missiles” to drive out an unpopular feudal lord – with success, as legend has it. Each year, the fun Battle of the Oranges (“Battaglia delle arance”) commemorates this grand triumph over the tyrant as spectators cheer. The winning team is honored on Shrove Tuesday and festivities conclude on Ash Wednesday with a traditional meal with fish and polenta.

Rooster seeks milk pot

They have to blindly rely on the spectators! In the district of Aschaffenburg (Franconia), there is a very special tradition on Rose Monday called “Gickelschlagen” (“rooster whacking”). All participants wear big rooster masks that they cannot see through. Their task: With a traditional threshing flail, they have to strike the milk pot. In this game, which strongly resembles the Hit the Pot game known from children’s birthday parties, the audience calls out to the candidates and tells them in what direction they need to walk. Whoever hits the milk pot first wins and can take off the rooster mask.

Hotel tip:

In addition to the curious carnival traditions in Lower Franconia, the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof in the Taunus Mountains is also an ideal starting point for the traditional Mainz carnival. After an eventful day, the hotel welcomes guests in charming rooms and spoils them with fresh, regional cuisine with international flair.

Fountain leap for a kiss

Achilly Carnival tradition! In Munderkingen (near Stuttgart), two men in costumes jump into the ice-cold water of a fountain. Before jumping, they warm up with a cup of hot punch. Once the two courageous revelers have climbed out of the fountain again, they are allowed to splash and kiss any ladies present.

Hotel tip:

About 30 minutes away from Munderkingen, the Romantik Hotel Kleber Post welcomes you with a spacious wellness area and the modern, upscale cuisine in the in-house restaurant Vinum.

There goes the big fish

The last journey – in many cities of Spain a magnificent sardine is carried to the grave. Colorful, cosmopolitan and with big parades – this is how Madrid celebrates its carnival. The highlight is the annual closing ritual. At the funeral of the sardine groups in mourning carry an oversized papier-mache imitation of the small fish across the city to its resting place in the Plaza de las Moreras. Originally, in this old custom meat was buried to herald the end of the carnival and the beginning of Lent. During the transmission however, “cerdina” (old term span. “pork”) became “sardina”, who now gets a ceremonial burial on Shrove Tuesday. They are also eaten on this occasion, but on carnival preferred in chocolate form.

Men in high heels

It’s a wild race! Every year at the festive Carnival celebration on the Canary Island of Tenerife, rambunctious men squeeze their feet into high heels and compete in an obstacle race in the capital Puerto de la Cruz. There are two rules to the race: Heels have to be at least 12 centimeters high and runners must be dressed in women’s clothing. Broken heels and staggering male legs are guaranteed.

Flung into good fortune

On the first Sunday in Lent, a cherished ritual begins at dusk – “Scheibenschlagen” (“disk flinging”)! In South Tyrol’s Vinschgau, residents take branches and disk-shaped pieces of wood and head for a hill above their village. The wooden disks have a hole in the middle and are placed in a bonfire until they glow; then they are placed on a flexible branch and flung toward the village. It’s a fertility ritual and also an opportunity for each thrower to make a personal wish before flinging the disk. Once all of the wooden disks have been thrown into the valley, a torchlight procession takes everyone back to the village.

Hotel tip:

In the Vinschgau Valley, guests of the Romantik Hotel Weisses Kreuz experience the perfect combination of tradition and modern lifestyle within the centuries-old walls of the hotel, which has been run by six generations. The in-house restaurant spoils guests with regional dishes and extraordinary creations.

Fright in the night

Remote valleys have long been the origins of myths and traditions. At Carnival time, the “Tschäggättä” prowl around Lötschental (Upper Valais). These are figures wearing wild costumes often made from sheep- or goatskins and eerily painted, hand-carved masks, cowbells, and carrying sturdy sticks. They scare anyone still on the streets in the evening. Traditionally, only young, unmarried men were allowed to don the costumes and frighten people. Today, the rules are more relaxed and respectable family men wear the “Tschägättä” outfit This tradition takes place between the Catholic holiday Candlemas and “Gigiszischtag” (Shrove Tuesday). Highlights of the celebration are the “Tschägättä” parades on February 23 and 25.

Hotel tip:

The 5 star Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof in Grindelwald is located in the heart of the high alpine mountain world of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Guests enjoy here in a cosy atmosphere and dine in one of the hotel's three restaurants.

Flour battle in Greece

Also in Greece carnival is celebrated exuberantly. Colourful festivals and carnival parades are as much in the foreground as unusual traditions. In Galaxidi on the south coast of Greece a flour battle takes place on Rose Monday. On site, white and coloured flour is distributed to locals and visitors and the faces are painted with charcoal. At noon exactly at 12 o'clock the wild flour battle begins, which only ends when all the flour has been distributed. This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, when clowns with painted faces provided entertainment.

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