The explosive celebration before the start of Lent, carnival festivals are popular in areas that are traditionally home to large Catholic populations. Vibrant parades, chaotic street parties, circus-like performances and flamboyant masquerade costumes are de rigeur in many of the most popular carnival destinations—including Rio de Janeiro and Venice.
Carnival season usually begins in February, four weeks before Easter Sunday. The days-long parties mix both pagan and Catholic traditions and culminate the night before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. “Fat Tuesday,” also know as Mardi Gras, is often the most raucous of the celebrations. In the United States especially, Mardi Gras has become an immensely popular celebration in New Orleans, due to the city’s French Catholic origins.
Did you know?
– The origins of the word “carnival” are hotly disputed. One popular theory is that the term originated from the Latin expression “carne vale,” or “farewell to meat,” and is a reference to the forbidden nature of eating meat during Lent. Since “carne” can also be translated as “flesh,” many think the term means “farewell to the flesh,” hinting at the sense of letting go of the everyday self during the festival.
– Carnival celebrations date back to the ancient Romans and Greeks, who partied hard to celebrate the arrival of spring.
– Almost 5 million people celebrate carnival in Rio de Janeiro, making it the largest carnival celebration in the world.
– The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are gold, green and purple, which symbolize power, faith and justice respectively.
Will you be celebrating carnival this year? Tell us where and how in the comments!