Recife is home to several noted Carnival celebrations. One famous event is the "Noite dos Tambores Silenciosos". Recife's Carnival is nationally known and attracts thousands of people every year. The party starts a week before the official date, with electric trios "shaking" the Boa Viagem district. On Friday, people take to the streets to enjoy themselves to the sound of frevo and to dance with maracatu, ciranda, caboclinhos, afoxé, reggae and manguebeat (cultural movement created in Recife during the 90s) groups. There are still many other entertainment poles spread out around the city, featuring local and national artists. One of the highlights is Saturday when more than one million people follow the Galo da Madrugada group. From Sunday to Monday, there is the Night of the Silent Drums, on the Pátio do Terço, where Maracatus honor slaves that died in prisons and jails too!
The Carnival is an annual celebration in Brazil held 40 days before Easter and marks the beginning of Lent. Rio de Janeiro has many Carnival choices, including the famous Escolas de Samba (Samba schools) parades in the sambódromo exhibition centre and the popular 'blocos de carnaval', which parade in almost every corner of the city. The most famous parades are the Cordão do Bola Preta with traditional carnaval parades in the centre of the city, the Suvaco do Cristo parades in the Botanic Garden, Carmelitas parades in the hills of Santa Teresa, the Simpatia é Quase Amor is one of the most popular parades in Ipanema, and the Banda de Ipanema which attracts a wide range of revelers, including families and a wide spectrum of the gay population (notably spectacular drag queens).
In the Caribbean, Carnival is celebrated on a number of islands: Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominica,Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago and United States Virgin Islands are some of the celebrants.
Venice is home to one of the most famous Carnival celebrations in the world, in addition to one of the oldest. The Carnival of Venice (or Carnevale di Venezia in Italian) 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, 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 Maskmakers (mascherari) 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 also effectively brought Carnival celebrations to a halt for almost two centuries. Carnival was outlawed by the fascist government in the 1930s. It was not until a modern mask shop was founded in the 1980s that Carnival enjoyed a revival.
The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the great river, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: "Mardi Gras Point") and called the small tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. enlou Bienville went on to found the settlement of Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana, and in 1703 the Mardi Gras tradition began with celebrations by the French settlers in that city. By 1720, Biloxi had been made capital of Louisiana. The French customs were introduced there at that time. In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. The tradition there expanded to the point that it became synonymous with that city. In more recent times several other U.S. cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the celebration of Mardi Gras.
Mobile's Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations revolve around mystic societies. The mystic societies are organizations, very similar to a krewe in New Orleans, that presents parades, masked balls, and activities for the enjoyment of its members, guests, and the public. Mystic society membership is secret. The mystic societies build colorful Carnival floats and parade throughout downtown Mobile during the Carnival season with masked society members tossing small gifts, known as throws, to the parade spectators, in the form of trinkets, candy, cookies, peanuts, panties, artificial roses, stuffed animals, doubloons, cups, hats, can coolers, Frisbees, medallion necklaces, bead necklaces of every variety, and Moon Pies. Mobile's mystic societies give formal masquerade balls, known as bal masqués, which are almost always invitation only and are oriented to adults. Attendance at a ball requires a strict dresscode, or costume de rigueur, be followed. The dresscode usually involves full-length evening gowns, white tie with tails for invited guests, and masked costumes for society members. The balls feature dramatic entertainment, music, dancing, food, and drinks. Balls are usually based upon a theme which is carried out through scenery, decorations, costumes, and a tableau vivant.
Mobile first celebrated Carnival in 1703 when French settlers began the festivities at the Old Mobile Site. Mobile's first Carnival society was organized in 1704, when Nicholas Langlois founded Societe de Saint Louis, reformed in 1711 as the Boeuf Gras Society (Fatted Ox Society, 1711-1861). Mobile's Cowbellion de Rakin Society was the first formally organized and masked mystic society in the United States to celebrate with a parade in 1830. The Cowbellions got their start when a cotton factor from Pennsylvania, Michael Krafft, began a parade with rakes, hoes, and cowbells. The Cowbellions introduced horse-drawn floats to the parades in 1840 with a parade entitled, "Heathen Gods and Goddesses". The Striker's Independent Society was formed in 1843 and is the oldest remaining mystic society in the United States. The idea of parading societies was exported to New Orleans in 1856 when six businessmen, formerly of Mobile, gathered at a club room in New Orlean's French Quarter to organize a secret society, inspired by the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, that would observe Mardi Gras with a formal parade. They founded New Orleans' first and oldest krewe, the New Orleans Cowbellions, which later became the Mistick Krewe of Comus. Carnival celebrations in Mobile were cancelled during the American Civil War. Mardi Gras parades were revived by Joe Cain in 1866 when he paraded through the city streets on Fat Tuesday while costumed as a fictional Chickasaw chief named Slacabamorinico, irreverently celebrating the day in front of the occupying Union Army troops. The Order of Myths, Mobile's oldest mystic society which continues to parade, was founded in 1867 and held its first parade on Mardi Gras night in 1868. The Infant Mystics also begin to parade on Mardi Gras night in 1868, but later moved their parade to Lundi Gras (Fat Monday). The Mobile Carnival Association was formed in 1871 to coordinate the events of Mardi Gras, this year also saw the First Royal Court held with the first king of Carnival, Emperor Felix I. The Comic Cowboys of Wragg Swamp were established in 1884, along with their mission of satire and free expression. The Continental Mystic Crew mystic society was founded in 1890, it was Mobile's first Jewish mystic society. The Order of Doves mystic society was founded in 1894 and held its first Mardi Gras ball. It was the first organized African American mystic society in Mobile. The Infant Mystics, the second oldest society that continues to parade, introduced the first electric floats to Mobile in 1929. The Colored Carnival Association was founded and had its first parade in 1939, it would later be renamed the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association. The Order of Osiris, the first gay and lesbian mystic society in Mobile, held its first ball in 1980. The 1st Mobile International Carnival Ball was held in 1995 with every known Mobile mystic society in attendance. The year 2002 saw Mobile's Tricentennial celebrated with parades representing every known mystic society.
Pensacola's founding was predominantly Spanish as opposed to the French which dominated the settlement of Mobile and of New Orleans. Pensacola picked up on the "parading" celebration of Mardi Gras in the late 1980s. Pensacola has its parades before Mardi Gras weekend; their parades being on Friday night ("Krewe of Lafitte"), Saturday afternoon (the "Grand Parade"), and the "Krewe of Wrecks" parade on Pensacola Beach on Sunday. They currently have no parades on Mardi Gras day itself.
The krewes in Pensacola are smaller than in Mobile or New Orleans, so typically a parade has floats sponsored by numerous different krewes, rather than a single krewe having their own parade.
New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration draws hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city to the celebrate with the locals at the famed parties and parades. The first Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans were held on March 3, 1699. On that day, a group of French explorers set camp on the west bank of the Mississippi River, about 60 miles downriver from the current site of New Orleans. The group's leader, Pierre Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville dubbed the spot La Pointe du Mardy Gras. The Rex organization put a marker at the Louisiana site 300 years later. An account from 1743 notes that the custom of holding Carnival balls was established by that date (during the time Bienville was governor). On Mardi Gras, there were masks and processions in the streets of the city, although they were, at times, prohibited by law. The celebrations were quickly resumed whenever restrictions were lifted or the enforcement of them was lax. In 1833, Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville, a rich plantation owner, raised the money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. On Mardi Gras of 1857 the Mistick Krewe of Comus held its first parade. Comus is the oldest continuously active Mardi Gras organization and originated a number of traditions that continue today (such as the use of floats in parades) and is considered the first Carnival krewe in the modern sense of the term. In 1875 Mardi Gras was declared a legal holiday by the state of Louisiana. Economic, political, and weather conditions sometimes led to the cancellation of some or all of the major parades, especially during the American Civil War, World War I and World War II, but the celebration of Carnival has always been observed in the city in some way. The last large parades went through the narrow streets of the city's old French Quarter neighborhood in 1972; Larger floats and crowds and safety concerns led the city government to prohibit big parades in the Quarter. In 1991, the New Orleans city council passed an ordinance that required social organizations, including Mardi Gras Krewes, to certify publicly that they did not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, in order to obtain parade permits and other public licenses. The ordinance required these and other private social groups to abandon their traditional code of secrecy and identify their members for the city's Human Relations Commission. In protest, the 19th century krewes Comus and Momus stopped parading. Proteus did parade in the 1992 Carnival season, but then suspended its parade until 2000 when they returned to the parade schedule. Two federal courts later declared that the ordinance was an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights of free association, and an unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of the groups subject to the ordinance. The Supreme Court refused to hear the city's appeal of their decision. Today, many krewes operate under a business structure - membership is basically open to anyone who pays dues to have a place on a parade float.
The effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans in late 2005 caused many to question the future of the city's Mardi Gras celebrations. The city government, essentially bankrupt after the storm, pushed for a massively scaled back celebration to limit strains on city services. However, many krewes insisted that they wanted to and would be ready to parade, so negotiations between krewe leaders and city officials resulted in a compromise schedule, scaled back but less severely than originally suggested. The 2006 New Orleans' Carnival schedule included the Krewe du Vieux on its traditional route through Marigny and the French Quarter on February 11, the Saturday two weekends before Mardi Gras, then several parades on Saturday, the 18th, and Sunday the 19th, a week before Mardi Gras, followed by six days of parades starting Thursday night, the 23rd, until Mardi Gras Day, the 28th. Other than Krewe du Vieux and two Westbank parades that went through Algiers, all New Orleans parades were restricted to the Saint Charles Avenue Uptown to Canal Street route, a section of the city which escaped significant flooding (some krewes unsuccessfully pushed to parade on their traditional Mid City route, despite the severe flood damage suffered by the neighborhood). Restrictions were placed on the amount of time parades could be on the street and how late they could go. Louisiana State troopers and National Guard assisted with crowd control for the first time since 1979. Many of the floats had been partially submerged in the floodwaters for weeks. While some krewes repaired and removed all traces of these effects, others incorporated flood lines and other damage into the designs of the floats. Most of the locals who worked on the floats and rode on them were significantly impacted by the storm, and many had lost most or all of their possessions, but their enthusiasm for Carnival was even more intense than usual and celebrated as an affirmation of life. The themes of many costumes and floats had more barbed satire than usual, with commentary on the trials and tribulations of living in the devastated city, with references to MREs, Katrina refrigerators and FEMA trailers, along with much mocking of FEMA, local, and national politicians.
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In parts of the Cajun country, such as Eunice, Basile, Church Point and Mamou, the traditional Courir de Mardi Gras (French for the "Mardi Gras Run") is still run, sometimes by maskers on horseback led by "Le Capitaine" who gather ingredients for making the communal meal (usually a gumbo). Participants gather in costume and move from home to home requesting ingredients for the night's meal. This rural Mardi Gras draws on traditions that are centuries old as revelers sing "La Chanson de Mardi Gras", a song echoing medieval melodies. People escape from ordinary life partly through the alcohol many consume in their festive quest, but even more through the roles they portray. As they act out their parts in a wild, gaudy pageant, they are escaping from routine existence, freed from the restraints that confine them every other day in the year. The capitaine maintains control over the Mardi Gras. He issues instructions to the riders as they assemble early in the morning and then leads them on their run. When they arrive at a farm house, he obtains permission to enter private property, after which the riders may charge toward the house, where the Mardi Gras sing, dance, and beg until the owner offers them an ingredient for a gumbo. Often, the owner will throw a live chicken into the air that the Mardi Gras will chase, like football players trying to recover a fumble. By mid to late afternoon, the courir returns to town and parades down the main street on the way to the location where the evening gumbo will be prepared.