Carnival, which is also known in Cologne as “Fastelovend”, is celebrated mainly during the period between New Year’s Day and Ash Wednesday. But in Cologne the beginning of the new Carnival session is already celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at precisely 11:11 a.m. On a big stage in the traditional city centre, the session’s designated triumvirate (the Carnival rulers — the Prince, the Peasant and the Maiden), still wearing their civilian clothes, present themselves to the public for the first time. After that, Carnival generally stays in the background until the New Year’s Eve balls.
The climax of Carnival in Cologne is the six-day street carnival known as the “Crazy Days”. From Weiberfastnacht, the women’s Carnival on the Thursday before Rosenmontag (Carnival Monday), to Veilchendienstag (Carnival Tuesday), there is no end of traditional sessions, balls and parades. People celebrate, sing and dance in the halls, pubs and restaurants. During these six days, normal life is suspended throughout Cologne. Many public institutions are closed, and Prince Carnival rules.