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Kopenfahrt (Barrel Parade)

Between February 3 and March 9; Shrove Tuesday
The Kope Festival on Shrove Tuesday has been observed by the salt miners of Lüneburg, Lower Saxony, Germany, since the 15th century. Originally the Kope, a wooden barrel filled with stones, was dragged through the narrow streets of the town by Salzjunker, or young journeymen salters, on horseback. They were followed by a long procession of local officials, salt mine laborers, and townspeople.
Today the Kope Procession has become a folk, rather than a historical, event. As the riders attempt to guide the Kope through the streets, trumpeters blast their instruments as loudly as possible in an attempt to unnerve the horses. Once the Kope is brought to the mouth of the salt mine, it is set on a huge pile of wood and burned. Following the bonfire is a ceremony initiating the Salzjunker into the Guild of Master Salters.
Some believe that the Kopenfahrt bonfire was originally a pagan ceremony symbolizing the sun god's triumph over the forces of darkness. In any case, the festival was revived in 1950 and is now a regular part of the old mining town's annual Carnival celebration.
German National Tourist Office
122 E. 42nd St. 20th Fl., Ste. 2000
New York, NY 10168
800-651-7010 or 212-661-7200; fax: 212-661-7174
FestWestEur-1958, p. 56
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