Carnival in Germany and the law

With carnival in Germany fast approaching, this article gives and overview of some of the legal issues to keep in mind when celebrating.

Carnival in Germany and the law © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Carnival in Germany and the law © ferkelraggae-Fotolia


Traditionally, one of the major focal points for the celebration of carnival in Germany is the city of Cologne.

German lawyer and partner at the Cologne-based law firm WBS, Christian Solmecke, highlights some of the legal issues that arise around carnival time.

Tie cutting

Traditionally, on “Weiberfastnacht” (Women’s Day) women cut the ties of any men they come across. But what if the person who has their tie cut does not follow the tradition? And what if they decide to claim compensation?

Christian Solmecke explains, “Generally speaking, cutting ties is an illegal act. It is considered damage to property. This gives rise to a claim for compensation.

“To be absolutely sure, women should quickly ask before reaching for the scissors,” Mr Solmecke advises.

Carnival at work

For those who have to work on during carnival, the question arises as to how much carnival atmosphere is allowed in the workplace. Can you turn up to work in a costume, for example?

The simple answer is: it depends on your employer. Whether costumes, champagne and carnival music can be accepted in the workplace depends on the sector and location.

“As such, employees do not have a ‘right’ to celebrate carnival at work,” Christian Solmecke emphasises, “But on the other hand, employers should exercise reasonable tolerance.”

The Regional Employment Tribunal, Hessen, considered it unreasonable for an employer to dismiss an employee for listening to carnival music in the office (judgment from 16.6.1989, case ref. 14 Sa 895/87).

Carnival parade

Injury through sweets being thrown

Taking part in street parades is not always danger free. In particular, on “Rosenmontag” (the Monday before Ash Wednesday), sweets are thrown from parades moving through the streets and many of the chocolate goodies hit on-lookers.

Here, the risk of small injuries should be accepted. On-lookers generally do not have a right to damages.

Christian Solmecke: “The courts have had to deal with this type of case on many occasions. The judges generally agree that because traditionally sweets have always been thrown, those who watch parades should accept that they may be hit by flying objects.” (county court Aachen, judgment from 10.11.2005, case ref. 13 C 250/05; county court Cologne, case ref. 123 C 254/10)

Injury through noise

Every on-looker must also accept a certain level of noise during the Rosenmontag parade. People who suffer ear damage as a result of party poppers being fired cannot claim compensation. The Regional Court, Trier, took the view that spectators are responsible for taking their own precautions against noise (case ref. 1 S 18/01).

Urinating in public

People who drink a lot, may need to relieve themselves more often. But doing it in a public place can leave not only your bladder but your wallet empty too.

Christian Solmecke: “Under § 118 Regulatory Offences Act, urinating in public is a breach of public decency, which can lead to a fine of up to 100 euros.”

Court appearance

If you are unlucky enough to receive a court summons on 11.11 at 11:11 (the date and time when carnival begins), you may well think you are the victim of a cruel joke.

One case in the Munich county court was scheduled for exactly this time and so one of the parties complained.

The Higher Regional Court, Munich, ruled that it is reasonable to expect even parties to a family dispute to have a bit of humour, or at least a laid back attitude.

It seems that sometimes, even judges can be jesters.

Christian Solmecke ist Partner der Kanzlei WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE und inbesondere in den Bereichen des IT-, des Medien- und des Internetrechts tätig. Darüber hinaus ist er Autor zahlreicher juristischer Fachveröffentlichungen in diesen Bereichen.

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