The spirit of carnival has taken over western and southern Germany. On Rose Monday, processions made their way through the carnival cities of Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf, watched by thousands of dressed-up revellers. This year, the first ever Chinese carnival princess was part of the festivities -- the 27-year-old Hongmei Wang won a trip to Cologne after taking part in a costume contest at a German bar in Beijing.
Hongmei, the first Chinese carnival princess, in Cologne
"Kölle Alaaf!” cries Hongmei. This carnival rallying cry loosely translates as “Up Cologne!” “I am very happy. It was luck that I was crowned the first carnival princess. I would like to thank everyone. I hope that I will be able to convey my knowledge about carnival culture to people in China so that they have a better idea of Germany and of Cologne.”
Hongmei, a catering manager, who has lived in Beijing for eight years, won the costume contest in China’s capital by wearing a traditional dress from Chinese opera and special headgear. She was also able to answer the carnival quiz questions and even knew the difference between lager beer and Kölsch, Cologne’s national pride.
She gave her first impressions of the atmosphere in Cologne: ““Totally crazy. Happy, everyone is happy. Not only is it even crazier than I imagined but it is better. It seems to be getting even crazier as we speak. There is a special atmosphere -- people are singing, dancing and drinking beer. This makes carnival so special.”
Cultural exchange between Cologne and Beijing
To bring German carnival to China was the idea of Cologne’s two economic ambassadors to Beijing. The two cities have been twinned for over 20 years.
Hongmei is also keen to play her part in promoting cultural exchange between Cologne and Beijing.
“I hope to have a lot of fun out here. And I hope I can give something back to the people of Germany. I would like to show them what people wear in China. Chinese people love Cologne and the Cologne carnival. That is why I want to show them with my costume that together we can have fun.”
Many of the revellers in Cologne were amazed that a Chinese carnival princess had joined the celebrations this year. “She looks magnificent,” said one passerby. “She caught my eyes immediately; you could see the costume is an original one.”
“She looks so pretty! Charming woman! Wonderful, dressed up completely differently from the people here in Cologne,” said a woman, whilst another was “impressed. The costume is very colourful and beautiful."
Hongmei was just as impressed by Cologne and knows this year’s carnival will be unforgettable: "I will take back fantastic memories to China. Such an opportunity does not come about every day. I will try to keep the atmosphere alive in order to celebrate next year’s carnival in Beijing in the same spirit."
Hongmei, the first Chinese carnival princess, will surely be telling her Beijing friends all about her Cologne carnival experience for years to come.