Definitions

Carnival parade

Carnival

[kahr-nuh-vuhl]
Carnival is a festival season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February and March. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations.

Carnival is mostly associated with Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox Christians; Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, like the Danish Carnival. The world's longest carnival celebration is held in Brazil but many countries worldwide have large, popular celebrations, such as Carnaval of Venice, or the world famous German celebrations.

Length and individual holidays

Depending on the area, the carnival may last from a few weeks to several months. While its starting day varies, it usually ends on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. In the Ambrosian rite of Milan (Italy), the carnival ends on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, and in the area of Eastern Christianity, it ends on the Sunday seven weeks before Easter, since in Eastern tradition lent begins on Clean Monday.

Most commonly the season begins on Septuagesima, the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday, but in some places it starts as early as Twelfth Night or even in November. The most important celebrations are generally concentrated during the last days of the season.

The following holidays, which are all part of the seven days before Ash Wednesday, often have special customs:

  • Quinquagesima, the Sunday, when often a break from the festivities occurs;
  • Shrove Monday or Lundi Gras or Rosenmontag, in many areas the high point of the festivities;
  • Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) or Fastnacht, the high point of the festivities when, according to many traditions, preparations for the parties are made, such as baking goods.

History

An inspiration for the carnival lies in the fact that during Lent, traditionally no parties may be held and many foods, such as meat, are forbidden; the forty days of Lent serve to commemorate the Passion of Jesus. It is natural for people to have the desire to hold a large celebration at the last possible opportunity before fasting.

Parts of the carnival traditions, however, likely reach back to pre-Christian times. The ancient Roman festivals of the Saturnalia and Bacchanalia is a probable origin of the Italian Carnival. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek Dionysia and Oriental festivals. While medieval pageants and festivals such as Corpus Christi were church sanctioned celebrations, carnival was a representation of medieval folk culture. Many local carnival customs are also based on local pre-Christian rituals, for example the elaborate rites involving masked figures in the Swabian-Alemannic carnival.

In Christianity, the most famous traditions, including parades and masquerading, are first attested from medieval Italy. The carnival of Venice was for a long time the most famous carnival. From Italy, carnival traditions spread to Spain, Portugal, and France. From France, they spread to the Rhineland of Germany, and to New Orleans. From Spain and Portugal, they spread to Latin America. Many other areas have developed their own traditions.

Etymology

The origin of the name "carnival" is disputed. According to one theory, it comes from the Greek prefix carn ("Meat eater"), referring to a cart in a religious parade, such as a cart in a religious procession at the annual festivities in honor of the god Apollo. Other sources, however, suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent. Another theory states that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. Yet another translation depicts carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrations that encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival.

Asia

India

In India, the Carnival is celebrated in two states: Goa and Kerala.

Goa (which was a Portuguese colony) has a long tradition of celebrating "Carnivaal" with colorful masks and floats. The city of Loutulim has the largest Carnival which sees merry residents gathered on the streets amid beating of drums and reverberating music. The celebrations run three days culminating in a carnival parade on fat Tuesday. There is participation of a large number of tourists. Dance troupes performed skits before throwing water on each other. After the revelry, song and dance, great food and good wine come together beautifully. After partying, the crowds enjoy a delightful Goan cuisine at a buffet dinner.

In contrast, the state of Kerala has very different celebrations. The festival is called "Raasa" (means fun in Sanskrit and in early malayalam). No masks are worn, but there is music and festivities, sometimes with fireworks. The Raasas are organized on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday by local catholic churches, and usually culminate in a public mass or a mass conducted in the church. Even though mostly Syrian or Roman catholic Christians only take part in Raasa Parade (which is considered the religious part), both Hindus and Muslims join to watch and join the public mass by Christians in the festivities. There is no food at the end of the celebration but there are fireworks organized by some churches. People however offer half boiled or raw rice for the "Chembeduppu" ceremony in large copper vessels ("Chembu") kept at the Church. The copper vessels carrying the half-boiled rice were taken out in a Raasa procession by the faithfuls with traditional Church orchestra playing the accompaniment. The golden and the silver cross as well as the Papal and Catholicate flags were also taken out with the Raasa procession.

Europe

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the city of Ljubuški has a traditional carnival (Karneval). Ljubuški is city member of the FECC or Federation of European Carnival Cites.

Croatia

The Croatian city of Rijeka has a long and rich tradition of celebrating the time of the Carnival (Croatian: "karneval", but the period is also often called "maškare"). During the Carnival the mayor of Rijeka hands over the keys of the city to the master of the Carnival ("meštar od karnevala") and the spirit of the Carnival takes over completely. There are many festive events during the Carnival, and the culmination of them all is the famous masked procession held on the last Sunday of the Carnival. The procession is international, and there are participants from many different countries. There are many viewers and there are big tents put up in the city with food, drinks and music. There is also a masked procession for children, held on the Saturday of the week before the main procession.

Although the Rijeka carnival (Riječki karneval) is the most famous of all such manifestations in Croatia, most towns and villages of the Croatian Primorje region (the northern seaside region, also called Kvarner) observe the Carnival period in some way, and many areas of Primorje have their own special traditions (e.g. "maškaroni" in the Novi Vinodolski area). The Carnival is a time filled with local traditions so the entire region enjoys a much higher than usual amount of exposure to local food, local music and the local non-standard variety of the Croatian language: "čakavština"(just about everything about "karneval" is handled speaking in "čakavština").

Just before the end of the Carnival and the beginning of Lent, every town in the region of Kvarner burns its own man-like doll, called "mesopust" or shorter "pust", which is "blamed" for all the bad events of the previous year and given an ironic name, usually alluding to politics.

One of the most famous traditions of "karneval" are "zvončari" (bell-ringers). Some of them are also called "dondolaši". They take part in many of the period's festivities and "zvončari of Halubje" are the last group of the main procession of the Carnival of Rijeka. They are men with loud bells attached to them, thick pieces of wood in their hands, sailor T-shirts and some kind of head regalia. The kind of head regalia they wear depends on where they are from - those from Halubje, who are the most renowned, wear large heads, reminiscent of animal heads, and those from Zamet, for example wear large cone-shaped regalia covered with floral decorations. The tradition of "zvončari" is a long-standing one and started many centuries ago when men ritually tried to scare winter away with animal-like "heads" and ringing bells loudly in a manner which was meant to induce fear.

The population enjoys the many concerts and parties of the period, sporting many various non-traditional masks. Most schools allow students and faculty to be masked for a day, and elementary schools organize dances. Masked children go trick-or-treating. The traditional Carnival food, such as "fritule", is eaten.

Although the Carnival traditions of Kvarner are the most renowned ones, there are other Carnival traditions and manifestations in Croatia, most notably those of "poklade" and "fašnik", pertaining to regions in inner Croatia. The most notable are the festivities of the area of the town Samobor.

Cyprus

Limassol holds the largest annual carnival in the island of Cyprus.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, the Masopust festival takes place from Epiphany (Den tří králů) until Ash Wednesday (Popeleční středa). The word masopust translates literally from old Czech to mean "goodbye to meat" and the festival often includes a pork feasts in preparation for Lent. The tradition is most common in Moravia but does occur in Bohemia as well. While tradition varies from region to region, masks and costumes are present everywhere.

Germany, Switzerland and Austria

Germany, especially the western part (North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate) is famous for Karneval celebrations such as parades and costume balls. Whilst these events are widespread in places such as Wattenscheid, Krefeld, Aachen, Mönchengladbach, Duisburg, Bonn, Eschweiler, Odenheim, Bocholt and Cleves, only Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mainz are called carnival "strongholds" in the public media. In parts of East and South Germany and Austria the carnival is called Fasching and especially Munich developed a special kind of celebration. In Franconia and the southwest-parts and also some other parts of Germany a carnival is called Fastnacht or Fasnet.

Although the festival and party season in Germany starts as early as the beginning of January, the actual carnival week starts on the Thursday ("Altweiberfastnacht") before Ash Wednesday. German Carnival parades are held on the weekend before and especially on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), the day before Shrove Tuesday, and sometimes also on Shrove Tuesday ("Faschingsdienstag") in the suburbs of larger carnival cities. The carnival session begins each year on 11 November at 11:11 a.m. and finishes on Ash Wednesday with the main festivities happening around Rosenmontag; this time is also called the "Fifth Season."

While Germany’s carnival traditions are mostly celebrated in the predominantly Roman Catholic southern and western parts of the country, there are some Protestant communities in the north that have adapted traditions. Their names depend on the Low Saxon dialect, including Fastelavend [ˈfastl̩.ˌɒːvm̩t], Fastelabend [ˈfastl̩.ˌɒːbm̩t] and Fastlaam (also spelled Fastlom) [ˈfastl̩ɒːm]. This name has been imported to Denmark as Fastelavn and is related to Vastelaovend in the Low-Saxon-speaking parts of the Netherlands.

Rhineland
In the Rhineland festivities developed especially strongly, since it was a way to express subversive anti-Prussian and anti-French thoughts in times of occupation, through parody and mockery. Modern carnival there began in 1823 with the founding of a Carnival Club in Cologne. Most cities and villages of the Rhineland have their own individual Carnival traditions. Nationally famous is the Carnival in Cologne (Köln), Düsseldorf and Mainz. In the Rhineland, the Carnival season is considered to be the "fifth season of the year", starting at November 11th at exactly 11:11 a.m. (elften elften elf uhr elf- starting time in German) -clubs organize "sessions" which are show events called Prunksitzung with club members or invited guests performing dance, comedy and songs in costumes.

The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year. The time of merrymaking in the streets is officially declared open at Alter Markt on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent. The main event is the street carnival that takes place in the period between the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday. Carnival Thursday is called "Altweiber" (old women) in Düsseldorf or "Wieverfastelovend" (The women's day) in Cologne, in many places Carnival-"fools" take over city halls or municipal government, "wild" women cut men's ties wherever they get hold of them. On the following days, there are parades in the street organized by the local carnival clubs. The highlight of the carnival period however is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag). Although Rose Monday is not an official holiday in the Rhineland, in practice most public life comes to a rest and almost all workplaces are closed and shops are open only in the morning or not at all. The biggest parades are on Rose Monday, the famous "Rosenmontagszug" (Rose Monday Parade), e.g. in Cologne, Düsseldorf and many other cities. During these events, hundreds of thousands of people celebrate in the streets at low temperatures, most of them dressed up in costumes. Almost every town has a special carnival cry (Cologne, Bonn and Aachen: Alaaf!; Düsseldorf and Mainz: Helau!; Mönchengladbach: Halt Pohl! (hold on to the pole); Rheydt: All Rheydt!).

Alemannic Fastnacht
The "Swabian-Alemannic" carnival begins on January 6 (Epiphany/Three Kings Day). This celebration is known as Fastnacht. Variants are Fasnet, Fasnacht or Fasent. Fastnacht is held in Baden-Württemberg, parts of Bavaria, and Alsace. Switzerland and Vorarlberg, in Austria, also hold this celebration. The festival starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, known in these regions as Schmutziger Donnerstag or Fettdonnerstag. In standard German, schmutzig means "dirty", but actually the name is from the local dialect where schmutzig means "fat"; "Greasy Thursday" (also compare: "Mardi Gras" in New Orleans). Elsewhere the day is called "Women's Carnival" (Weiberfastnacht), being the day when tradition says that women take control. In particular regions of Tyrol, Salzburg and Bavaria traditional processions of the Perchten welcome the springtime. The Schönperchten ("beautiful Perchts") represent the birth of new life in the awakening nature, the Schiachperchten ("ugly Perchts") represent the dark spirits of wintertime. Farmers yearn for warmer weather and the Perchtenlauf (Run of Perchts; typical scenery) is a magical expression of that desire. The nights between winter and spring, when evil ghosts are supposed to go around, are also called Rauhnächte ("rough nights").

England

In England, the season immediately before Lent was called Shrovetide. It was a time for confessing sins (shriving) with fewer festivities than the Continental Carnivals. Shrove Tuesday is celebrated as Pancake Day, but apart from the serving of pancakes and occasional pancake races and football matches (see Royal Shrovetide Football), little else of the Lent-related Shrovetide survived the English Reformation. One of the few, if not the only, Shrovetide carnivals in the UK takes places in Cowes and East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This is the first carnival of the year on the Island, and is the start of a long and busy carnival calendar.

The traditional English carnivals take place later in the year, such as the Leeds Carnival in August and the West Country Carnival in November, associated with Guy Fawkes Night. London now has several major carnivals, such as the Notting Hill Carnival, Nigerian Carnival UK and the Carnaval Del Pueblo, all held in August. Luton Carnival, begun 1976, is in May. St Pauls carnival, an Afrikan Caribbean Carnival in its 41st year (as of 2008), usually takes place on the first Saturday of July in Bristol.

Greece

Patras in the Peloponnese, holds the largest annual carnival in Greece, the famous Patras Carnival, with celebrations starting on the week before the beginning of Greek Orthodox Great Lent, which falls between February to March. It is a ‘gran spettacolo’ that lasts three days and finishes on the day known as Clean Monday.

Also in many other regions festivities of smaller extent are organized, focused on the reenactment of traditional customs. Other important carnivals in Greece are these in Tyrnavos (Thessaly),Kozani (West Macedonia), Rethymno (Crete) and in Xanthi (East Macedonia and Thrace).

Hungary

In Mohács in Hungary, the Busójárás involves locals dressing up in woolly costumes, with scary masks and noise-makers. They perform a burial ritual to symbolise the end of winter and spike doughnuts on weapons to symbolise the defeat of Ottomans.

Italy

- The carnival in Venice was first recorded in 1268. The subversive nature of the festival is reflected in the many laws created over the centuries in Italy attempting to restrict celebrations and often banning the wearing of masks.

Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day, December 26) at the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. As masks were also allowed during Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise. Mask makers (mascareri) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.

In 1797 Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrians took control of the city on January 18, 1798 and it fell into a decline which brought carnival celebrations to a halt for many years. It was not until a modern mask shop was founded in the 1970s that a revival of old traditions began.

- Another important Italian carnival is the Historical Carnival of Ivrea, mostly known for its Battle of the Oranges. It is valued as one of the most ancient carnivals in the world: during the year 1000 a miller's wife killed the tyrant of the city, King Arduino; from that episode began a civil war between the oppressed people and the king's supporters, finally won by people, and until now every year the citizens remember their liberation with the Battle of the Oranges. Here, teams of "Aranceri" by foot shoot oranges representing ancient arrows and stones against Aranceri on carts, representing Arduino's allies. During the French occupation of Italy in the nineteenth century the Carnival of Ivrea had been modified by adding representatives of the French army who help the miller's wife.

- In Milan the Carnival lasts four more days, ending on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, because of the Ambrosian rite.

Malta

Main Article: Maltese Carnival

Carnival in Malta (known as Karnival) was first was introduced in 1535 by Grand Master Piero de Ponte, five years after the Knights took over the islands. The main celebration takes place in the capital, Valletta, but in every town and village many people, mostly children, dress up in colourful clothes to camouflage their identity. The Valletta parade includes the King Carnival float followed by about a dozen others. Until some years ago, Carnival was also the event of the year for dances and masked balls. Under the rule of the Knights, the Auberges were left open and were delightfully decorated. Carnival in Malta is somewhat very popular. By time popularity is increasing and peoples participation in the events is also at an increase. In Malta carnival is usually held sometime between February to the beginning of March.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands where it is called 'Karnaval', 'Carnaval', 'Vastenavond' or 'Vastelaovend' the last day of Carnival, the day before Ash Wednesday, is held exactly 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. Dutch Carnival is most celebrated in Catholic regions, mostly the southern provinces Noord Brabant and Limburg, where it is also known as Vastenavond or Vastelaovend (literally "Fasting evening", although that strictly refers only to the last day, whereas Carnival in the Netherlands usually begins on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday). The most popular places where Carnival is held (although every city, town or village celebrates it) are Maastricht, Roermond, Heerlen, Venlo, Tilburg, 's-Hertogenbosch, Bergen op Zoom, Eindhoven, Breda, Oldenzaal and Prinsenbeek The places have while carnival also other name's for instance Prinsenbeek is called Boemeldonck. Carnival here has been celebrated ever since mediaeval times and was modernised after WW II, when Bergen op Zoom even continued to celebrate it indoors. However, it is the most southern province of The Netherlands, Limburg, where many Dutch go to celebrate it. During the event, every town is one big party.

During Dutch Carnival, many traditions are kept alive. First of all is the parade with dressed-up groups, musicians and elaborately built floats. Also traditions include a fake prince plus cortège ('Council of 11'), the boerenbruiloft (farmer's wedding) and the haring happen (eating herring) on Ash Wednesday. However, the traditions vary from town to town.

There are several types of Carnival celebrated in The Netherlands. The best known variant is known as the Rijnlandsche Carnival which can be experienced in the province of Limburg.. It shares many folklore traditions with its German and Belgian counterparts. Maastricht is famous not so much for its parades but for its street carnival, with elaborate costumes that people work on all year, a bit like the South American style, but with a strong accent on humour, and bearing resemblance to Italian, mostly Venetian, traditions, culture and costumes.

Another variety can be found in the province of Noord-Brabant, e.g. in Tilburg, 's-Hertogenbosch, Breda, Steenbergen and Bergen op Zoom. The Carnival in 's-Hertogenbosch is known as the oldest in the Netherlands. Several paintings of the world famous Jheronimus Bosch, who lived in the city in the 15th century, are based on the carnival festivities in the city during the Middle Ages. The oldest known Carnival festivities in 's-Hertogenbosch date from 1385. In 1882 De Oeteldonksche Club was founded to secure the future of Carnival in 's-Hertogenbosch. The Carnival of Bergen op Zoom shares most traditions with 's-Hertogenbosch and very few traditions and folklore with the rest of the Netherlands and they have celebrated it in their specific way ever since 1839.

Summer Carnival

Rotterdam (since 1984) and Arnhem (since 2001) celebrate every year Brazilian carnival at the end of July. With 900,000 (2006) and 120,000 (2006) visitors, both events increase in popularity. The Rotterdam carnival includes a yearly Queen and best brass band election in the week before the event.

Poland

The Polish Carnival Season includes Fat Thursday (Polish: Tłusty Czwartek), a day for eating pączki (doughnuts); and Śledziówka (Shrove Tuesday) or Herring Day. The Tuesday before the start of Lent is also often called Ostatki (literally "lasts"), meaning the last day to party before the Lenten season.

The traditional way to celebrate Carnival is the kulig, a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered countryside. Increasingly today, especially among the younger generation, Carnival is seen as an excuse for an intensive burst of partying and night-clubbing, and is becoming ever more commercialized with many stores displaying special selections of goods and garish clothing for the Carnival season.

Portugal

Carnival in Portugal is celebrated throughout the country, the most famous are the ones of Ovar, Madeira, Loulé, Podence and Torres Vedras. The ones from Podence and Lazarim have pagan traditions, namely the Careto, and Torres Vedras Carnival is seen as the most typical Portuguese carnival.

Paradoxically, Portugal having introduced Christianity and the customs related to Catholic practice to Brazil, has started to adopt some of the aspects of Brazilian-style Carnival celebrations, in particular those of Rio de Janeiro with sumptuous parades, Samba and other Brazilian musical elements.

Russia

Maslenitsa (Масленица, also called Pancake Week or "Cheese Week") is a Russian folk holiday that incorporates some traditions that date back to pagan times. It is celebrated during the last week before the Great Lent; that is, the seventh week before the Easter. Maslenitsa is a direct analog of the Roman Catholic Carnival. Maslenitsa has a dual ancestry: pagan and Christian. The essential element of Maslenitsa celebration are bliny, Russian pancakes, popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods still allowed during that week by the Orthodox traditions: butter, eggs, and milk (in the tradition of Orthodox lent, the consumption of meat ceases one week before the consumption of milk and eggs).

Maslenitsa also includes masquerades, snowball fights, sledding, swinging on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. The mascot of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma. As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery, and put to the flames of a bonfire.

In Saint Petersburg the modern celebration of the festival is organized by the city to fall on a fixed date annually (at Sunday, closest to May 27th).

Slovakia

In Slovakia, the Fašiangy (fašiang, fašangy) takes place from Three Kings' Day (Traja králi) until the midnight before the Ash Wednesday (Škaredá streda or Popolcová streda). At the midnight, marking the end of fašiangy, a symbolic burial ceremony for the contrabass is performed, because music has to cease for the Lent.

Slovenia

The festive year of the Slovenes is extraordinarily rich and diverse. A great deal of national legacy has been preserved within widely attended tourist events.

The Slovenian countryside displays a variety of disguised groups and individual characters among which the most popular and characteristic is the Kurent (plural: Kurenti), a monstrous and demon-like, yet fluffy mask. The most significant ethonological Carnival festival is traditionally held in annually in the town of Ptuj (see: Kurentovanje). The special feature of the event of Ptuj itself and its surrounding area are the very Kurenti, magical creatures from the other world, who visit all major events throughout the country, the members of the parliament, the president and the mayors, trying to banish the winter and announce the arrival of the spring, fertility and new life with loud noise and dancing. The origin of the Kurent is a mystery, not much is known of times and beliefs nor the purposes of its first appearance. The origin of the name itself is obscure.

Another town, equal in importance to Ptuj, where the carnival tradition is evolving in all its might, is Cerknica. Carnival is heralded by, with a whip, a traditional mask called “Poganjič”. In the carnival procession, organised by the “Pust society”, a monstrous witch Uršula is driven from Mt. Slivnica, to be burnt on the stake on Ash Wednesday. Unique to this region is a group of dormice, driven by the Devil and a huge cave dragon spitting fire. Cerkno and its surrounding area is known for the "Laufarji" (the chasing men), Carnival figures with artistic masks.

Mačkare from Dobrepolje used to represent triple character: the beautiful and the ugly (among which the most important represented by an old man, an old woman, a humpback and a Corant) and the noble (imitating the urban elite).

The major part of the population, especially the young and children, enjoy dressing up as ordinary non-ethnical masks, going to school, faculties, work and organized events, where the best and most original masks are awarded. Dressed up children go from house to house asking for a treat.

Spain

Arguably the most famous locales in Spain are Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Tarragona and specially Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Cádiz, Badajoz, Laza (an ancestral carnival celebration), Xinzo de Limia (the longest carnival in Spain). At Santa Cruz de Tenerife the parties of the cities are not only well known in Spain, but also worldwide. It is famous for thematic costumes, and the election of the Carnival Queen. There is also a parade of Drag-Queens, known as reinonas.

Sitges: This Carnival is one of the most important Carnivals in the autonomous community of Catalonia. Folk dances and xatonades (traditional local salad of Sitges, served with assorted omelets) are also characteristic elements of the carnival. The two most important moments in the carnival of Sitges are the Rua de la Disbauxa, or the Debauchery Parade, on Sunday night and the Rua de l‘Extermini, or Extermination Parade, on Tuesday night. Some forty-odd floats with more than 2,500 participants parade in Sitges. The carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrù is very important because of Les Comparses (on Sunday), in which good-humoured rival groups throw boiled sweets (candies) at each other.

In Tarragona is found one of the most complete ritual sequences of the Catalan carnivals. The events start with the building of a huge barrel and end with its burning together with the effigies of the carnival King and Queen. On Saturday, the main parade takes place. There are masked groups, zoomorphic figures, music and percussion bands, and traditional groups with fireworks (the devils, the dragon, the ox, the female dragon). Carnival groups stand out for their splendid clothes full of elegance and of brilliant examples of fabric crafts at the Saturday and Sunday parades.

Carnival of Cádiz

In Cádiz everyone wears a costume, which is often related to recent news, such as the bird flu epidemic in 2006, during which many people were disguised as chickens. The feeling of this carnival is the sharp criticism, the funny play on words and the imagination in the costumes, more than the glamorous dressings. It is traditional to paint the face with lipstick as a humble substitute of a mask.

The most famous groups are the chirigotas, choirs and comparsas. The chirigotas are well known witty, satiric popular groups who sing about politics, new times and household topics, wearing the same costume, which they train for the whole year. There is an official competition in Teatro Falla, where they compete for the award to the group. The music of the songs is written by each group. Each chirigota has a wide repertoire of satirical lyrics.

The Choirs (coros) are wider groups that go on open carts through the streets singing with a little orchestra of guitars and lutes. Their characteristic composition is the "Carnival Tango", and they alternate comical and serious repertory.

The comparsas are the serious counterpart of the chirigota in Cádiz, and the poetical lyrics and the criticism are their main ingredients. They have a more elaborated polyphony, being easily recognizable by the typical countertenor voice.

Carnival of Santa cruz de Tenerife
that carnival has been declared as international touristic interest party.
Carnival of Gran Canaria

In Gran Canaria is famous the Drag Queen's gala where a jury choose a winner, famous too is the Queen of the carnival.

People often to wear a disguise and go to the carnival procession where the drink and dance behind a float. To finnished it they celebrate the sardine's funeral.

Latin America

Argentina

In Argentina, the most famous carnival celebrations are held in the Argentine Mesopotamia and the North-West. Gualeguaychú in the east of Entre Ríos province is the most important carnival city and has one of the largest parades, with a similar afro-American musical background than Brazilian or Uruguayan Carnival. Corrientes is another city with a lively carnival tradition (and is also the "National Capital of Carnival") which involves the chamamé music, a kind of polka, and large parades at the Carnival weekends. In the North-West, Carnival is influenced by indigenous traditions, above all in the valley towns of Humahuaca and Tilcara. In all major cities and many towns throughout the country, Carnival is also celebrated, but less famous that in the above mentioned places.

Bolivia

La Diablada carnival, takes place in the city of Oruro in central Bolivia. It is celebrated in honor of the patron saint of the miners, Vírgen de Socavon (the Virgin of the Tunnels). Over 50 parade groups dance, sing and play music over a five kilometre-long course. Participants dress up as demons, devils, angels, Incas and Spanish conquerors. There are various kinds of dances such as caporales and tinkus. The parade runs from morning until late at night, 18 hours a day, 3 days before Ash Wednesday. Meanwhile throughout the country celebrations are held involving traditional rhythms and water parties. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra, at the east side of the country, the tropical weather allows a Brazilian-type carnival, with agropuations of people called "Comparsas" dancing traditional songs in matching uniforms.

Brazil

An important part of the Brazilian Carnival takes place is the Rio Carnival, with samba schools parading in the Sambodromo. It's the main event in this country,it is considered the largest of the kind in the world. Called "One of the biggest shows of the Earth", the festival attracts million tourists, both Brazilians and foreigners who come from everywhere to recognize the great show. These are large, social entities with thousands of members and a theme each year. Blocos are small informal groups also with a definite theme, usually satirical of the current political situation. There are more than 30 blocos in Rio de Janeiro. Bandas are samba musical bands, usually formed by enthusiasts in the same neighborhood.

From Salvador, an adapted truck, with giant speakers and a platform where musicians play songs of local genres such as Axé music, Samba-reggae , Pagode and Arrocha. The truck is driven around the city with the crowd following dancing and singing. It was originally staged by three Salvador musicians, Armandinho, Dodo & Osmar, in the decade of 1950.

Pernambuco has large Carnival celebrations, including the Frevo, typical Pernambuco music. Another famous carnival music style from Pernambuco is Maracatu. The cities of Recife and Olinda also host large carnival celebrations in Brazil. The largest carnival parade in all of the world according The Guinness Book of World Records is named Galo da Madrugada, which takes place downtown Recife on the Saturday of carnival. Another famous event is the Noite dos Tambores Silenciosos.

Caribbean

Most of the islands in the Caribbean celebrate Carnival. The largest and most well-known celebration is held in Trinidad and Tobago. Haiti, Antigua, Aruba, Cayman Islands, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Sint Maarten, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts, Saint Thomas and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are also known for lengthy carnival seasons and large celebrations.

Carnival is an important cultural event on the Dutch Antilles islands of Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Saba, Sint Eustatius (Statia), and Bonaire. Festivities include "jump-up" parades with beautifully colored costumes, floats, and live bands as well as beauty contests and other competitions. Carnival on these islands also includes a middle-of-the-night j'ouvert (juvé) parade that ends at sunrise with the burning of a straw King Momo, cleansing the island of sins and bad luck. On Statia he is called Prince Stupid.

Carnival has also been celebrated in Cuba since the 18th century. The costumes, dances and pageantry grew with each passing year, with the participants donning costumes from the cultural and ethnic variety on the island. After Fidel Castro's Communist Revolution, carnival's religious overture was suppressed. The events remained, albeit frowned upon by the state. Carnival celebrations have been in decline throughout Cuba since 1960.

Antigua

The Antiguan Carnival is a celebration of music and dance held annually from the end of July to the first Tuesday in August. The most important day is that of the j'ouvert (or juvé), in which brass and steel bands perform for much of the island's population. Barbuda's Carnival, held in June, is known as Caribana. The Antiguan and Barbudan Carnivals replaced the Old Time Christmas Festival in 1957, with hopes of inspiring tourism in Antigua and Barbuda. Some elements of the Christmas Festival remain in the modern Carnival celebrations, which are otherwise largely based on the Trinidadian Carnival. The carnival consists of mas playing, steel pan music and various shows such as calypso shows and pageants.

Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad & Tobago, Carnival is a holiday season that lasts over a month and culminates in large celebrations in Port of Spain which is the capital of Trinidad, on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with Dimanche Gras, J'ouvert, and Mas (masquerade). Tobago's celebrations also culminates on Monday and Tuesday but on a much smaller scale in its capital Scarborough. Carnival is a festive time of costumes, dance, music, competitions, rum, and partying (also referred to as fete-ing). Music styles associated with Carnival include soca, calypso

The annual Carnival steel pan competition known as the National Panorama competition is held in the weeks preceding Carnival with the finals held on the Saturday before the main event. Pan players compete in various categories such as "Conventional Steel band" or "Single Pan" by performing renditions of the current year's calypsos. Preliminary judging of this event for "Conventional Steel Bands" has been recently moved to the individual pan yards where steel bands practice their selections for the competition.

"Dimanche Gras" takes place on the Sunday night before Ash Wednesday. Here the Calypso Monarch is chosen (after competition) and prize money and a vehicle bestowed. Also the King and Queen of the bands are crowned, where each band to parade costumes for the next two days submits a king and queen, from which an overall winner is chosen. These usually involve huge, complex, beautiful costumes.

J'ouvert, or "Dirty Mas", takes place before dawn on the Monday (known as Carnival Monday) before Ash Wednesday. It means ""opening of the day" . Here revelers dress in old clothes and cover themselves in mud, oil paint and body paint. A common character to be seen at this time is "Jab-jabs" (devils, blue, black or red) complete with pitch fork, pointed horns and tails. Here also, a king and queen of the J'ouvert are chosen, based on their representation of current political/social events/issues.

Carnival Monday involves the parade of the mas bands, but on a casual or relaxed scale. Usually revelers wear only parts of their costumes, and the purpose of the day is more one of fun than display or competition. Also on Carnival Monday, Monday Night Mas is popular in most towns and especially the capital, where smaller bands participate in competition.

Carnival Tuesday is when the main events of the carnival take place. On this day full costume is worn complete with make up and body paints/adornments. Each band has their costume presentation based on a particular theme, and contain various sections (some consisting of thousands of revelers) which reflect these themes. Here the street parade and eventual crowning of the best bands take place. After following a route where various judging points are located, the mas bands eventually converge on the Queen's Park Savannah to pass "on the stage" to be judged once and for all. Also taking place on this day is the crowning of the Road March king or queen, where the singer of the most played song over the two days of the carnival is crowned winner, complete with prize money and usually a vehicle.

This parading and revelry goes on into the night of the Tuesday. Ash Wednesday itself, whilst not an official holiday, is marked by most by visiting the beaches that abound both Trinidad and Tobago. The most populated being Maracas beach and Manzanilla beach, where huge beach parties take place every Ash Wednesday. These provide a cool down from the previous five days of hectic partying, parades and competitions, and are usually attended by the whole family.

Colombia

Although Carnival was introduced by the Spaniards and has incorporated elements from the European cultures, it has managed to re-interpret traditions that belonged to the African and Amerindian cultures of Colombia. There is documentary evidence that Carnival existed in Colombia in the 18th century and had already been a cause for concern for the colonial authorities, who censored the celebrations, especially in the main political centres such as Cartagena, Bogotá and Popayán.

The Carnival, therefore, continued its evolution and re-interpretation in the small and at that time unimportant towns where celebrations did not offend the ruling elites. The result was the uninterrupted celebration of Carnival festivals in Barranquilla (see Barranquilla Carnival), in other villages along the lower Magdalena River in northern Colombia, and in Pasto, Nariño (see Blacks and Whites Carnival) in the south of the country. In modern times, there have been attempts to introduce Carnival in the capital, Bogotá, in the early 20th century, but it has always failed to gain the approval of authorities. The Bogotá Carnival has had to wait until the 21st century to be resurrected, this time by the authorities of the city.

Ecuador

In Ecuador, the celebrations have a history that begins before the arrival of Catholicism. It is known that the Huarangas Indians (from the Chimbos nation) used to celebrate the second moon of the year with a festival at which they threw flour, flowers and perfumed water. This once pagan tradition has since merged with the Catholic celebration of Carnaval.

A common feature of Ecuadorian Carnival is the diablitos (little devils) who play with water. As with snowball fights, the practice of throwing or dumping water on unsuspecting victims is especially revered by children and teenagers, and feared by some adults. Throwing water balloons, sometimes even eggs and flour both to friends and strangers passing by the street can be a lot of fun but can also raise the ire of unfamiliarised foreigners and even locals.

Although the government as well as school authorities forbid such games, it is still widely practiced throughout the country. Historians tell of a Bishop in 1867 who threatened the punishment of ex-communion for the sin of playing Carnival games.

Different festivities are held in various regions of the country, where the locals wear disguises with colorful masks and dance to the rhythm of lively music. Usually, the celebrations begin with the election of the Taita Carnaval (Father Carnaval) who will head the festivities and lead the parades in each city.

The most famed carnival festivities are those in Guaranda (Bolivar province) and Ambato (Tungurahua province). In Ambato, the festivities are called Fiesta de las Flores y las Frutas (Festival of the Flowers and Fruits). Other cities have also revived the carnival traditions with colorful parades, such as in Azogues (Cañar Province). In Azogues and the Southern Andes in general, the Taita Carnaval is always an indigenous Cañari dressed for the celebrations.

French Guiana

The Carnival of French Guiana is a major aspect of the culture of that country. Although its roots are in the Creole culture, everyone participates — mainland French, Brazilians (Guiana has a frontier with Brazil) and Chinese as well as creoles.

Its duration is variable, determined by movable religious festivals: Carnival begins at Epiphany and ends on Ash Wednesday, and so typically lasts through most of January and February. During this period, from Friday evening until Monday morning the entire country throbs to the rhythm of the masked balls and street parades. Normal life slows almost to a stop.

Friday afternoons are the time for eating galette des rois (the cake of kings) and drinking champagne. The cake may be flavoured with frangipani, guava, or coconut.

On Sunday afternoons major parades are staged in the streets of Cayenne, Kourou, and Saint-Laurent du Maroni. Competing groups prepare for months. Dressed according to the agreed theme of the year, they strut along with carnival floats, drums, and brass bands.

Brazilian groups are also appreciated for their elaborate feathered and sequined costumes. However, they are not eligible for competition since the costumes do not change from one year to the next.

Certain mythical characters appear regularly in the parades:

  • Karolin: A small person dressed in a magpie tail and top hat, riding on a shrew.
  • Les Nèg'marrons: Groups of men dressed in red loincloths, bearing ripe tomatoes in their mouths and their bodies smeared with grease or molasses. These men deliberately try to come in contact with spectators, soiling their clothes.
  • Les makoumés: Men in drag (out of the carnival context, makoumé is a pejorative term for a homosexual).
  • Soussouris (the bat): a character dressed in a winged leotard from head to foot, usually black in colour. Traditionally malevolent, this character is liable to chase spectators and "sting" them.

A uniquely Creole tradition of this version of carnival is the so-called touloulous. These are women wearing highly decorative gowns, gloves, masks and headdresses which cover them completely so that they are not only unrecognisable, but the colour of their skin cannot even be determined. On Friday and Saturday nights of carnival, touloulou balls are held in so-called universities — in reality, large dance halls that only open in carnival time. Touloulous get in free, and are even given condoms in the interest of the sexual health of the community. Men also attend the balls, but they have to pay admittance and they are not disguised. The touloulous pick their dance partners, who may not refuse the dance. Thus, the setup is designed to make it easy for a woman to create a temporary liaison with a man she fancies in total anonymity. Undisguised women are not welcome at the balls. By tradition, if one gets up to dance, the orchestra stops playing. Alcohol is served at bars — the disguised women also pick up men by whispering to them "touloulou thirsty," at which a round of drinks is expected, to be drunk through a straw so as not to unmask in the slightest.

In more modern times, Guyanais men have attempted to turn the tables by staging soirées tololo, in which it's the men who, in disguise, seek partners from undisguised women bystanders.

The final four days of carnival have a rigid tradition of celebration, and no work is done at all.

  • Sunday: The Grand Parade, in which the competing groups show off their very best.
  • Monday: Marriage burlesque, with men dressed as brides and women as grooms.
  • Tuesday: Red Devil Day, with everyone wearing red or black.
  • (Ash) Wednesday: Dress is black and white only, for the grand ceremony of burning the effigy of Vaval, the King of the Carnival.

[This text relied principally on text in The French wikipedia

Honduras

In La Ceiba in Honduras, Carnival is held on the fourth Saturday of every May to commemorate San Isidro. It is the largest Carnival celebration in Central America.

Nicaragua

In the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, in the city of Bluefields, the carnival, better known as Palo de Mayo (or Mayo Ya!), is celebrated every day of May.

In the Nicaragua's capital city, Managua, it is only celebrated for 2 days. The carnival in Managua is named "Alegria por la vida" translated to "Joy for Life" and features a different theme each year.

Mexico

In Mexico, Carnival is celebrated in some cities, notably Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mazatlan and in the state of Veracruz, where Carnival is celebrated with traditional music and dances. People dress in bright, feathered costumes and do their performances on the streets. Mazatlan's celebration is sometimes compared to the carnival of Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans. In Copandaro de Galeana Michoacan carnival is celebrated with parades, games, bull riding, and dancing.

Panama

The Panamanian Carnival is the second biggest festival in the world. Traditionally beginning on Friday and ending on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, "los carnavales," as Panamanians refer to the days of carnival, are celebrated in almost the whole country. Carnival Week in Panama is specially popular because of the luxury and magnitude of the Las Tablas Carnival as well as the carnival celebrations in Panama City and almost all of the Azuero Peninsula. The Panamanian Carnival is also popular because of the great number of concerts by national and international artists held on different stages in the most visited areas of the country.

Uruguay

The Carnival in Montevideo is the longest of the world, with more than 40 days of celebration, generally occurring in February through mid March. The main attractions of Uruguayan Carnival include two parades called Desfile de Carnaval (Carnival Parade) and Desfile de Llamadas (Summoning Parade).

During the forty days of celebration, popular theaters called tablados are built in many places throughout the city. In these theaters Murgas, Lubolos, Parodistas and other groups perform a kind of popular opera, singing and dancing songs that generally relate to social reality and activity in the country. They also wear their festival clothing. For women its a elegant dress and for men its a shirt and tie.

Venezuela

Carnival in Venezuela is a time when youth in many rural towns have water fights. Anybody and everybody that is out in the streets during the week of Carnival is subject to being soaked

Canada

Caribana, held in Toronto on the first weekend of August, has its origins in the carnival traditions of the Caribbean, notably Trinidad and Tobago. Due to climatic imperatives, Caribana is held in the summer when Caribbean costumes may be paraded comfortably, rather than adhering to the traditional winter dates of the other carnivals in which the festival is strongly rooted. Attendance at the Caribana parade typically exceeds one million people.

The Quebec City Winter Carnival is the biggest winter-themed carnival in the world. It depends on good snowfalls and very cold weather, to keep snowy ski trails in good condition and the many ice sculptures intact. For this reason it does not coincide with the pre-Lent celebration but is fixed instead to the last days of January and first days of February.

In the Ottawa-Gatineau region, Winterlude takes place during the first 3 weeks of February.

United States

Carnival celebrations, usually referred to as Mardi Gras, are common in the Gulf Coast area of the Southern United States, including Texas and the western Panhandle of Florida. They originated in the onetime French Colonial capitals of Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Biloxi, Mississippi, all of which have celebrated for many years with street parades and masked balls.

Louisiana

The best-known, most elaborate, and most popular events are in New Orleans, while other South Louisiana cities such as Lafayette, Mamou, and Houma, all of which were under French control at one time or another, are the sites of famous Carnival celebrations of their own.

Major Mardi Gras celebrations are spreading to other parts of the United States, such as the Mississippi Valley region of St. Louis, Missouri and Orlando, Florida in Universal Studios.

See also

References

  • McGowan, Chris and Pessanha, Ricardo. "The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil." 1998. 2nd edition. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-545-3
  • Catholic Encyclopedia, Shrovetide

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