Female revellers dominate first day of German carnival weekend
Feb 16, 2012, 14:41 GMT
Cologne, Germany - Female revellers in fancy dress invaded government offices in western German cities Thursday in an annual ritual that begins the main weekend of carnival celebrations to drive out the winter blues.
Mayors and other public officials pretended to be taken hostage by the troupes of women, with tens of thousands of people taking part in the rituals or gathering to see the spectacle.
Carnival is a folk tradition at which people drink heavily and party before six weeks of fasting during the Catholic season of Lent. While the fasting has become rare, the partying has remained a high point of the year.
Many women carry scissors and snip off the neckties of male officials - and sometimes of unsuspecting passers-by - another time-honoured high-jinks ritual of the Thursday of the long weekend.
Fancy-dress celebrations are to continue through the next three days, with major parades in the big cities set for Monday. Carnival finishes on Tuesday, known as Mardi Gras.