German Carnival has many names: Karneval in the Rheinland; Fasching in Bavaria, Fasnet in Swabia and Fasnacht in the Black Forest.
Karneval or Fasnacht has many faces; it's been celebrated in very different ways. In Cologne, Bonn, Dusseldorf and Mainz there are huge parades with tons of candy for the people who are standing along the streets, cheering and singing popular Karnevalsongs.
In the South of the Black Forest you can visit the socalled "Narrentreffen" - all participating people are "Narren" which means fools. There are hundreds of Fasnacht associations all over the South, and every village is placing a "Fools tree" in the middle of their village on the first day of Fasnacht. Every association has its unique costume with mask. They gather for parades on weekends beginning in January until Ash Wednesday, when the whole fasnacht miracle will be over.
The Karneval or Fasnacht tradition comes from the time where people used to fast before upcoming Easter, and the six days before were the days to eat, drink and celebrate and lot.
I mean a lot. Another meaning is that winter is ending and in some locations they burn a straw puppet as a symbol to celebrate the end of the cold months.
More information from the Black Forest: http://www.schwarzwald.com/events/fasnacht.html
More information from Carnival in Cologne (in English):
Karneval in Germany is very popular, so the food you can enjoy in that time. So stay tuned. I will post some recipes of what they like to eat in Cologne and the South.