Though we tend to associate carnival with hot-blooded places like
Rio and New Orleans, some of the most festive celebrations erupt in
chillier locations. Cologne, a German city on the Rhine, hosts a
weeklong bash famous for Weiberfasnacht (women’s carnival), the day
local frauleins swarm through the streets planting wet kisses on
anyone they wish. In Imst, Austria, men dress as women and dance
around town. In Basel, Switzerland, things are even
wilder–thousands of townspeople dress up in fanciful costumes and
organize impromptu parades to the accompaniment of raucous off-key
brass music. Often they burst into a tavern to recite satirical
verses about local politicians and celebrities. A predominantly
Protestant town, Basel defies Catholic custom by holding its
Fasnacht on the Monday after Ash Wednesday, perhaps setting a
precedent for you to hold your own carnival party or parade any
time you please. Carnival fun is even taking root here in the snow
belt, giving us a great excuse to get outside in the depths of
winter. I have warm memories of a below-zero-wind-chill day in
Burlington, Vermont, where I joined crowds cheering the annual
Mardi Gras parade on Church Street.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.