Carnival is a multi-day religious season that is intended as a period of celebration to precede the Lenten season; this is a Christian holiday season that is particularly important in areas with strong Catholic roots. The exact dates of the Carnival season may vary by country or region with some areas, such as Germany and the Netherlands, beginning the season as early as November 11th, and others beginning considerably later with the advent of Epiphany, which takes place 12 days after Christmas every year on January 6th.
The word "Carnival" derives from the Latin carne vale, which means "farewell to the flesh" and marks the general feeling of self-indulgence that characterizes the event. Though celebrations take on different forms that are typically strongly traditional and characteristic of a specific place, Carnival celebrations tend to involve public gatherings and street parties. These public celebrations are a major part of Carnival celebrations, and in some cases they may even surpass the religious significance of the season and offer some appeal to those who do not follow Catholic beliefs. The term "Carnival" is sometimes used to describe the exuberant celebrations that take place to mark this event, including the famous annual Carnival celebration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.