“Kölle Alaaf” in San Diego!

It’s February. In our process of settling in as a Korean American German family here in San Diego, the next event on the calendar was Karneval. I mentioned the holiday to my daughter expecting her to recall some of it from her Kindi days in Aalen at least from pictures of her as a cowgirl jumping on a trampoline or going out the door as a butterfly. She didn’t. I presented it to her in a different way, “Remember Fasching, Vera?” That seemed to ring a bell for my Swabian girl.

For the first time, our daughters’ German preschool here in San Diego organized a special adult-only party on the first Saturday evening of this month at the German American Societies of San Diego. As my husband is from the Rhineland, Karneval country, I had left the costume planning to him. This task did not sit high on his list of priorities, so it was the Thursday before the party, that we found ourselves a bit panic stricken with figuring out what to wear. Going in “plain clothes” was not an option. If we were to go to a Karneval party, we would have to go all the way. We were further restricted by the fact that I am seven months pregnant, so even if there were any costumes left to buy at Party City, most would unlikely fit me. I finally had a solution, which my husband reluctantly went along with: sauna goers! We didn’t actually go in the buff, but we put our matching bathrobes to good use.

We were named the Sauna couple or "Sauna Paar" that evening.

We were named the Sauna couple or “Sauna Paar” that evening.

This was in fact the first Karneval celebration that I had been to. The truth be told, the times that I ever saw one of these ceremonies broadcasted on the television while I was living in Germany, I changed the channel!  Being one to grab the chance to experience or see something at least once, I had suggested to my husband during our first year of marriage that we go up to his parents’ home to experience Karneval before our lives might become more complicated. He didn’t want to and so we didn’t. But, our lives did get more complicated with the arrival of our first child later that year.

The festivities started with a simple German meal of different kinds of Würste with rolls, sauerkraut, and potato salad. The bar also served three different kinds of German beers on tap and several more in bottles. The German American Societies with its big beer garden outside is truly like an oasis of Germania in San Diego! The ceremony got kicked off with the entry of the President of the Club who emceed the event.  She was followed by the entry of five other men who stood behind the podium. And then entered the dancing troops led by the Funkemariechen. The Funkemariechen twirled around and even shook her booty provocatively at us, as is the tradition. She was soon joined by her fellow dancers in a few round of choreographed dance. Then there was arrival of the King and Queen and a little procession!

Dancing

Dancing

Arrival of the King and Queen

Arrival of the King and Queen

Soon thereafter, the dance floor was opened by, yup, you guessed it, a waltz.  My husband was reluctant to show off our dance moves in flip flops, but we managed. As the pregnant half of our sauna pair, and because I made him wear his bathrobe in public, I was the designated driver for my husband who sampled the various beers on offer. For him, as he was bopping around happily to Nina and twitching along to Falco, it was an unexpected bit of the Heimat in southern California.

For more details on the history and tradition of Karneval, I suggest Hyde’s introduction and the Wikipedia entry.