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Germany's Carnival season begins

Carnival celebrations have officially begun in Germany's Rhineland. This time around, Donald Trump costumes are expected to feature prominently in the region's biggest party of the year.

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Carnival starts in Cologne

Despite intermittent rain and chilly winter temperatures, Carnival festivities kicked off punctually at 11 minutes past 11 on Friday - the 11th day of the 11th month.

The "fifth season," as it's known locally, takes over cities along the Rhine river each year, with the biggest parties in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz. Revelers typically dress up in costume, while beer flows freely throughout the day.

Thousands of people gathered in Cologne's old town square to mark the occasion on Friday. Security was tightened in the city, with more police and ambulances on standby, following the New Year's Eve attacks earlier this year.

Each Carnival city has new rulers each year. In Cologne, it's the "trio of fools" who take over. In Düsseldorf, the Hoppeditz, a jester in red and white attire, declares the start of carnival by coming out of a mustard jar and giving a speech.

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker announced the signing of the city's agreement with the fools via Twitter.

Carnival season culminates with a series of massive parades, complete with marching bands and elaborate floats, on Rose Monday, which falls on February 27 next year. It all comes to an official end two days later on Ash Wednesday. 

Sigrid Krebs of Cologne's Carnival committee told German news agency DPA that she wouldn't be surprised to see more of US president-elect Donald Trump this year - in costumes and in the cities' parades, which take place in February. 

"He is a topic that affects the whole world - and certainly us as well," she said, adding that although the Carnival floats hadn't been built yet, Trump was sure to feature on a few of them. "Rose Monday is only three and a half months away - a lot can happen in that time.”

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