Saturday, March 12, 2011

Forsbach alaaf!

Forsbach alaaf!

For those of you who aren't acquainted with the intricacies of the Rhineland dialect, "D'r zoch kütt" means "Der Zug kommt" or "The parade is coming". The first tractor usually has a sign announcing this so that the people can start getting into position.

Position? What's the best position to watch a parade?, you ask. It depends on who you are and why you are there.

For the people who are lucky enough to live on the parade route, that means serving up glasses of Kölsch - the beloved regional brew - to friends who stop by to visit.

For traditionally dressed parade-goers, who have seen this procession 35 times already and have good connections to the people on the floats, it means downing another glass of golden and looking for a place in a clearing. You see, the special guests may have large boxes of assorted chocolates or soccer balls thrown to them from their friends on the passing floats. In Forsbach this year they were even throwing packages of cocktail tomatoes, eggplants and avocados!

For viewers, it means "Carry on as usual" because they've been preparing for this moment over the past two months, increasing their alcohol tolerance levels at parties every weekend since Christmas.

For fathers of little children, it means you make sure your kids are out on the curb in the front row where they'll be able to catch the most candy.

For Carnival Connoisseurs "D'r zoch kütt" means to start singing along with the first band you hear at the end of the street.
For those who are accompanying out-of-town, first-time Carnival guests, it means you had better give them a bit of reassurance that you are glad they are there and whatever you do in the course of the next hour or two is nothing more than a result of the effects the alcohol has had on you.

Even first-graders know what "D'r zoch kütt" means. They've been watching the parade from their father's shoulders for years and are happy to finally be able to stand up front on the street with their friends and fill their bags with candy.

What did you say? Huh? Oh, the bands are loud. Yes they are. Even the babies need to wear protection at the Kölner Karneval!

The Aftermath
When the parade has passed by, the clean-up crew is right there to sweep up and make the street passable once again. Children do a good job of picking up all the candy, but the wrappers and broken glass is the job for the men in orange.
The children each leave with a couple of bags full of candy which they will dump out on the living room floor (reminiscent of American Halloween rituals), sort the edible from the inedible and then commence to beg their parents if they can have "just one more".


  1. I am an American living in New Albany, Ohio. My name is James Forsbach and I was questioning FORSBACH alaaf! What is FORSBACH alaaf?

  2. Forsbach is the name of a town not too far from Cologne in Germany. "Alaaf" is the way people there greet one another - and entire cities - during the Carnival season. It means "Hello!"