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Carnival (Carnaval, Καρναβάλι (Carnavali), Carnevale, Carnestoltes, Carnaval, Karneval, Carnaval and Karnawał in Portuguese, Greek, Italian, Catalan, French, Dutch, German, Spanish and Polish languages) is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during January and February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, masque and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life.

Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove Tuesday events. The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. These include the Carnevale of Venice, Italy, the German Rhineland carnivals, centering on the Cologne carnival; the carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerifemarker, Canary Islandsmarker; the carnival of Cape Verdemarker; of Torres Vedrasmarker, Portugal; Rio de Janeiromarker, Brazil; Rijekamarker, Croatia; Barranquillamarker, Colombia; Haitimarker; Jamaicamarker; the Carnaval and the Llamadas in Montevideomarker, Uruguaymarker and Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. In the United States, the famous Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, date back to French and Spanish colonial times.

Length and individual holidays

While the starting day of Carnival varies, the festival usually builds up to a crescendo in the week before lent, ending on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In the Ambrosian rite of Milanmarker (Italy), the carnival ends on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday. In areas in which people practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Carnival 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 first Sunday before Ash Wednesday. In some places it starts as early as Twelfth Night (January 6) or even in November. The most important celebrations are generally concentrated during the last days of the season before Ash Wednesday.


The origin of the name "carnival" is disputed. Variants in Italian dialects suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent.

A different explanation 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. However, explanations proceeding from carne vale seem to be folk etymologies and are not supported by philological evidence.

Carnival in different places



Goan Christians participating at the Goan Carnival, late 20th century
In India, Carnival is celebrated in two states: Goa and Kerala.
Goamarker (which was a Portuguese colony) has a long tradition of celebrating "Carnival" known as Intruz (possibly from the Portuguese word Entrudo, another name for Carnival) 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 Keralamarker 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.



Many Belgian towns celebrate Carnival, typically with costume parades, partying and fireworks.

The main parades of the Carnival of Binche stretch over the three days before Lent. The most important participants are the Gilles, who go out in their traditional costumes on Mardi Gras and throw blood oranges to the crowd.

Carnival in Binchemarker has a history dating back at least to the 16th century. In 2003, the Carnival of Binche was recognised as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCOmarker.

Other large carnival celebrations are held in Aalst and Malmedymarker.

Some Belgian cities hold carnivals later during Lent. One of the best known is Stavelotmarker, where the Carnaval de la Laetare takes place on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. The most well-known participants are the Blancs-Moussis, dressed in white and wearing long red noses. They parade through town throwing confetti and beating bystanders with dried pig bladders. Another large carnival celebration on Laetare Sunday is held in Halle.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

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


The Croatianmarker city of Rijekamarker 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 carnivals in Croatia, most towns and villages of the Croatian Primorje region (the northern seaside region, also called Kvarnermarker) 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). 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 Frlanija, 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.


In Cyprusmarker, Carnival is celebrated for 10 consecutive days just before the beginning of Lent. Carnival had been celebrated for centuries on the island by dressing up and holding masked balls or visiting friend's houses in fancy costumes. It is believed that the tradition was established during the Venetian rule, while ancient Greek traditions might have contributed, as well. However, it is during the past a hundred years or so that an organised festival takes place annually. The festival is celebrated almost exclusively in the town of Limassolmarker, which holds the largest annual carnival on the island.

There are three main parades taking place. The first one takes place on the first day of the Carnival, during which the "Carnival King" goes around the centre of the city on his carriage. The King can be either a real person or an artistically made effigy. The second one takes place on the first Sunday of the festival, and the participants are mainly children. The third parade is the largest one and takes place on the last day of Carnival, the Sunday before the beginning of Lent. During this parade several groups, each of them sometimes consisting of hundreds of people walk along the longest avenue of the town. It is important to mention that in either of the Sunday parades, anyone can take part.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republicmarker, 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.


Carnival in [Denmark]As Holloween also is a commercial event to accelerate sales through all the toys shops, the steady advetizing for it, has influent some danes to hold this event. The great influence through television series, which the main part are imported from the US also add to this development. Some danes reuses the carvival custumes from Fastelavn, which is the name for main Carnival in Denmark. Fastelavn evolved from the Roman Catholic tradition of celebrating in the days before Lent, but after Denmark became a Protestant nation, the holiday became less specifically religious. This holiday occurs seven weeks before Easter Sunday and is sometimes described as a Nordic Halloween, with children dressing up in costumes and gathering treats for the Fastelavn feast. The holiday is generally considered to be a time for children's fun and family games.

[edit] EtymologyThe term "Fastelavn" is a Low Saxon loanword imported from Northern Germany: Fastelavend [ˈfastl̩.ˌɒːvm̩t], Fastelabend [ˈfastl̩.ˌɒːbm̩t] and Fastlaam (also spelled Fastlom) [ˈfastl̩ɒːm], related to Low Saxon Vastelaovend in the eastern parts of the Netherlands and to Dutch Vastenavond.

[edit] FestivitiesSome towns in Denmark are renowned for their large Fastelavn festivities and parades. Traditional events include slå katten af tønden ("hit the cat out of the barrel"), which is somewhat similar to using a piñata. The Danes use a wooden barrel, which is full of candy and has the image of a cat on it. Historically there was a real black cat in the barrel, and beating the barrel was superstitiously considered a safeguard against evil. After the candy pours out, the game continues until the entire barrel is broken. The one who knocks down the bottom of the barrel (making all the candy spill out) becomes kattedronning ("queen of cats"); the one who knocks down the last piece of the barrel becomes kattekonge ("king of cats").

Fastelavnsboller (baked bones often with rousins)In Denmark and Norway a popular baked good associated with the day is Fastelavnsbolle (lit. "Fastelavns bun", also known in English as "shrovetide bun" or "lenten bun"), a round sweet roll usually covered with icing and sometimes filled with whipped cream. Similar buns are eaten in other northern European countries, for example the Swedish Semla. Ísafjörður is the only town in Iceland that celebrates Fastelavn on the same day as the Nordic countries, the day being known as Maskadagur (from the Danish word maske, meaning to dress-up or put on a mask).

There seem to be some small local traditions which are closer to the carnival traditions of other countries, including Ash Wednesday, Carnival parades, Pancake Tuesday and eating special food after Ash Wednesday, but they are not particular to Danish culture.

Another popular custom (especially among the children) is the "fastelavnsris", with which children ritually flog their parents to wake them up on the morning of Easter Sunday.

Fastelavnsris have many shapes and forms and differ from area to area. In some areas they are bunches of twigs, usually from fruit trees and preferably with buds. Those are often decorated with feathers, egg-shells, storks and little figures of babies. In other areas, they are a bent willow-branch, shaped like an ankh and wound with crepe paper that has frizzles cut with scissors. Both varieties may be decorated with candy as well.

The custom is known already in the 1700s in Denmark and it has several roots. There is probably no doubt the custom originates from an old fertility ritual, which has been absorbed into Christianity. The more serious one is that after the reformation, particularly pious people used to flog their children on Good Friday to remind them of the sufferings of Christ on the cross. A similar custom is mentioned in the book "Frauenzimmerlexicon", published in 1715 in Leipzig (Germany), which describes how bachelors and virgins "bid each other goodmorning" by flogging each other and spreading ashes on each other. This custom is also known in Denmark.

Earlier, it was mainly the young women and the infertile who were flogged. It was also common that a young man would carry his "fastelavnsris" and (of course gently) strike at young women he met on the street. Later it became the children's special right to flog their parents on this day. In any case, the reward given for the flogging would be a fastelavnsbolle.

Germany, Switzerland and Austria

The "Council of Eleven" (Elferrat) is a German tradition dating from 1823.
The members, wearing fool's caps as their official headgear, meet annually on November 11 at 11:11 a.m. to plan the events for the next Karneval.
Germany, especially the western part (North Rhine-Westphaliamarker and Rhineland-Palatinatemarker) is famous for Karneval celebrations such as parades and costume balls. Cologne carnival is the largest and most famous. Cologne, along with Düsseldorfmarker and Mainzmarker, are held in the public media to be Germany's three carnival "strongholds". However carnival celebrations are widespread elsewhere in the region, in places such as Wattenscheidmarker, Hagenmarker, Krefeldmarker, Aachenmarker, Mönchengladbachmarker, Duisburgmarker, Bonnmarker, Eschweilermarker, Bocholt and Clevesmarker.In parts of East and South Germany and Austria the carnival is called Fasching.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 ("Weiberfastnacht") 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, the Protestant North traditionally knows a festival under the Low Saxon names 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. It is traditionally connected with farm servants or generally young men going from house to house in the villages and collecting sausages, eggs and bacon, which was consumed in a festivity on the same evening. While going from house to house they wore masks and made noise. The old tradition vanished in many places, in other places under influence of German carnival traditions it came to resemble carnival with its parades.

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 are the Carnival in Cologne (Köln), Düsseldorfmarker and Mainzmarker.

In the Rhineland, the Carnival season is considered to be the "fifth season of the year", starting at November 11 at exactly 11:11 a.m. ( ). Clubs organize "sessions" which are show events called Sitzung with club members or invited guests performing dance, comedy and songs in costumes. The most frequently performed piece of music during such "sessions" is the "Narrhallamarsch".

The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended during Advent and Christmas, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year. The time of merrymaking in the streets is officially declared open at the Alter Markt during the Cologne Carnival 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 day) in Düsseldorf or Wieverfastelovend (The women's day) in Cologne. This celebrates the beginning of the 'female presence in carnival,' which began in 1824, when washer-women celebrated a 'workless day' on the Thursday before carnival. They founded committee in 1824 to strengthen their presence in the still male-dominated carnival celebrations. In each city, a woman in black storms the city hall to get the "key" for the city-/townhalls from its mayor. In many places "fools" take over city halls or municipal government and "wild" women cut men's ties wherever they get hold of them. Also, as a tradition, women are allowed to kiss every man who passes their way. 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 halt and almost all workplaces are closed. The biggest parades are on Rose Monday, the famous Rosenmontagszug (Rose Monday Parade), e.g. in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mainz, 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, Bonnmarker and Aachenmarker: Alaaf!; Düsseldorf and Mainz: Helau!; Mönchengladbachmarker: Halt Pohl! (hold on to the pole); Rheydtmarker: 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-Württembergmarker, parts of Bavariamarker, and Alsacemarker. Switzerland and Vorarlbergmarker, 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." 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")[6508] 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").


In Intro, 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 Cowesmarker and East Cowesmarker on the Isle of Wightmarker. 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 Carnivalmarker, Nigerian Carnival UK and the Carnaval Del Pueblo, all held in August. Luton Carnivalmarker, begun 1976, is in May. St Pauls carnival, an African Caribbean Carnival in its 41st year (as of 2008), usually takes place on the first Saturday of July in Bristolmarker.


Patrasmarker in the Peloponnesemarker, 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 Tyrnavosmarker (Thessaly),Kozanimarker (West Macedonia), Rethymnomarker (Cretemarker) and in Xanthimarker (East Macedonia and Thrace). Specifically Tyrnavosmarker holds an annual Phallus festival, a traditional phallcloric event on the first days of Lent.


In Mohácsmarker 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.


Viareggio Carnival 2008, Uer iz de parti?
The Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most famous in Italy: it lasts a month with night and day celebrations, floats, parades, district celebrations, masked dances and other shows. In 2001 the new "Citadel" (Carnival town) was inaugurated: a polyfunctional and a great architectonical value structure that includes new hangars for the creation of the floats, the papier-mâché school and a great arena where, during the summer, "Citadel under the stars" review is held, including shows, concerts and cultural initiatives.

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.

Parades of allegorical floats and flower floats, into a baroque circuit, are one of the attractions of the Best Carnival in Sicily, a typical carnival night.

The Carnival of Acireale each year attracts visitors from around the world.

Another important Italian carnival is the Historical Carnival of Ivreamarker, 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 Milanmarker the Carnival lasts four more days, ending on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, because of the Ambrosian rite.The carnival in Veronamarker is celebrated with a parade of "carri allegorici" on the "Venerdi Gnocolar", which takes place on the last Friday of Carinval, when people eat traditional potato gnocchi.


In the Republic of Macedoniamarker there are more carnivals but the most popular and the most beautiful one is The Strumica Carnival (Macedonian: Струмички Карневал, translated Strumichki Karneval) in the city of Strumicamarker. Also it's the only one at night time while others (like in Prilep, Vevcani...) are at day time at the afternoon.

It has a centuries-old tradition and takes place every year in the period of the Christian festival Trimeri, during Lent . The word “carnival” originates from the Latin words: carne – meat and vale – farewell . The carnival represents a vestige of an ancient cult from the pagan time and indicates the glorification of fertility and purification from the spectral energies of the daily routine. In 1670 the Turkish travel-author Evlija Chelebija , while staying in Strumica , wrote: “ I came into a town located in the foothills of a high hillock and what I saw that night was masked people running house–to–house, with laughter, scream and song“. Since 1991 organized form of the carnival has been established. In 1994 Strumica became a member of FECC (Federation of European Carnival Cities) and in 1998 played host to XVIII International Congress of Carnival Cities. The opening of the carnival takes place on Saturday night at a masked ball where the Prince and Princess are chosen. The children’s carnival is on Sunday and the day after is known as Pure Monday. The main carnival night is on Tuesday when not only masked participants from the country, but carnival groups from abroad take part, as well. The participants present various, diverse subjects and are rewarded with individual and group prizes. As of 2000, the Festival of Caricatures and Aphorisms has started under the auspices of the carnival. The festival has international character and takes place during the Trimeri festivities. The theme of the festival is the carnival combined with light eroticism.


Main Article: Maltese Carnival

Carnival in Maltamarker (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, Vallettamarker, 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 in February, during the 5 days preceding Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

For the last years, Carnival in Malta is mostly popular in the village of Nadur, Gozo (the sister island of Malta). It is celebrated the traditional way and is mostly famous for its spontaneous inventions that everyone is able to invent. It is a disorganized carnival in an organized way. It is disorganized as no committee organize it and no rule apply, on the other hand it is organized as everyone especially Nadur residents prepare from months before their original ideas. The highlight is that people wear grotesque masks and scary costumes, with the intention that no one recognizes them, representing every sort of leg pulling, all ways of life and steaming off all kinds of frustrations. There will also be floats with creative ideas, bands and DJ's playing to create a fun atmosphere and bars for the ones who want to drink and try to beat the chilly weather that there is during that time. This event starts at around 9pm till the early hours and it takes place at December 13th Street. It reaches the highlight on Saturday night. In 2005 the Nadur Carnival was the World Carnival Capital by virtue of hosting the largest ever gathering of international Carnival dignitaries and organizers for the global Carnival City summit organized by the Federation of European Carnival Cities


'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 Brabantmarker and Limburgmarker, 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 in the south of The Netherlands celebrates it) are Roosendaalmarker, Weertmarker, Maastrichtmarker, Roermondmarker, Heerlenmarker, Sittardmarker, Venlomarker, Tilburgmarker, 's-Hertogenboschmarker, Bergen op Zoommarker, Eindhovenmarker, Bredamarker, Oldenzaalmarker and Prinsenbeekmarker The places also adopt different names during carnival, for instance Prinsenbeek is called Boemeldonckmarker and Eindhovenmarker is called Lampegat. Carnival here has been celebrated ever since medieval times and was modernised after WW II, when Bergen op Zoom even continued to celebrate it indoors.

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 Venetianmarker, traditions, culture and costumes.

Another variety can be found in the province of Noord-Brabant, e.g. in Tilburg, 's-Hertogenbosch, Breda, Steenbergenmarker and Bergen op Zoom. The Carnival in 's-Hertogenbosch (called "Oeteldonk" which means Frog Hill)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

Rotterdammarker (since 1984) and Arnhemmarker (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.


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, especiallyamong 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.


Carnival in Portugal is celebrated throughout the country, the most famous are the ones of Ovar, Madeiramarker, Loulémarker, and Torres Vedrasmarker. The ones from Podence and Lazarim have pagan traditions, namely the Careto, and Torres Vedrasmarker 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.


Maslenitsa ( , 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 masquerade, 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 Petersburgmarker the modern celebration of the festival is organized by the city to fall on a fixed date annually (at Sunday, closest to May 27).


In Slovakiamarker, 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.


Sloveniamarker has a rich and diverse annual cycle of holidays. Much ethnic heritage has been preserved through 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, but fluffy figure. The most significant ethonological Carnival festival is traditionally held in annually in the town of Ptujmarker (see: Kurentovanje). The special feature of the event of Ptujmarker itself and its surrounding area are the Kurents themselves, magical creatures from the other world, who visit all major events throughout the country, members of parliament, the president and 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, and not much is known of the times, beliefs, or purposes connected with its first appearance. The origin of the name itself is obscure.

Another town, equal in importance to Ptujmarker, where the carnival tradition is alive is Cerknicamarker. The carnival is heralded by a figure called "Poganjič" carrying a whip. In the carnival procession, organised by the "Pust society", a monstrous witch named Uršula is driven from Mt. Slivnica, to be burned at the stake on Ash Wednesday. Unique to this region is a group of dormice, driven by the Devil, and a huge fire-breathing dragon.Cerknomarker and its surrounding area is known for the Laufarji, carnival figures with artistically carved wooden masks.

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

The major part of the population, especially the young and children, dress up in ordinary non-ethnic costumes, going to school, work, and organized events, where prizes are given for the best and most original costumes. Costumed children sometimes go from house to house asking for treats in an imitation of American Halloween.


Arguably the most famous locales in Spain are Sitgesmarker, Vilanova i la Geltrúmarker, Tarragonamarker, Santa Cruz de Tenerifemarker, Cádizmarker, Badajozmarker, Laza (an ancestral carnival celebration) and Xinzo de Limiamarker (the longest carnival in Spain).


In Cádizmarker the costumes worn are 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. 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.

Canary Islands

The Santa Cruz de Tenerifemarker is together with the Carnival of Cadiz, the most important festival for Spanish tourism and Spain's largest carnival. In 1980 it was declared a Festival Tourist International Interest, by the Secretariat of State for the Tourism. Every February, Santa Cruz de Tenerifemarker, the capital of the largest of the Canary Islandsmarker, hosts the event, attracting around a million people. The celebrations could be declared by UNESCO as Heritage of Mankind in 2009. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife now aspires to become a World Heritage Site.

The Carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canariamarker (Gran Canariamarker) has a Drag Queen's gala where a jury choose a winner.

In Catalonia people dress up and organise parties for a week but particularly on the weekend. Despite it being winter, parties are open air, beginning with a cercavila to call everybody to come. Rues of people dance along the streets. On Thursday Dijous Gras is celebrated, also called 'the omelette day' (el dia de la truita), coques (de llardons, butifarra d'ou, butifarra) and omelettes are eaten. Parties end by burning Mr. Carnestoltes and with enterrament de la sardina (sardine's funeral).

In Catalonia people dress up and organise parties for a week but particularly on the weekend. Despite it being winter, parties are open air, beginning with a cercavila to call everybody to come. Rues of people dance along the streets. On Thursday Dijous Gras is celebrated, also called 'the omelette day' (el dia de la truita), coques (de llardons, butifarra d'ou, butifarra) and omelettes are eaten. Parties end by burning Mr. Carnestoltes and with enterrament de la sardina (sardine's funeral).

Carnaval de Solsona takes place in Solsona, Lleidamarker in central Catalonia. It is one of the longest carnivals in Catalonia - free events in the streets, and concerts every night, run for more than a week. The carnival is known for a legend that explains some people hung a donkey at the tower bell, because the animal wanted to eat some grass which grew on the top of the tower. To remember this legend, every year people in Solsona hang a donkey at the tower, while the animal pisses above the excited people. This event is the most important of Solsona's Carnival and takes place on Saturday night. For this reason, the inhabitants of Solsona are called "matarrucs" ("donkey killers"). Photo: [6509]

Another characteristic of the carnival is its giants. Crazy Giants will pursue and try to hit revellers with their articulated arms and legs. The Crazy Giants were created in 1978 by the giant-making master Manel Casserras i Boix. Photo: [6510]

"Comparses" groups organize free activities in the streets. They are groups of friends who create and personalize a uniformed suit which is worn every year during the festivities. Website:

Sitgesmarker: This carnival is one of the most famous carnivals in Cataloniamarker. Special food includes xatonades (a xató is a traditional local salad of Sitges) served with omelettes. Two important moments are the Rua de la Disbauxa (Debauchery Parade) on Sunday night and the Rua de l'Extermini (Extermination Parade) on Tuesday night. Around 40 floats with more than 2,500 participants parade in Sitges.

The carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrúmarker is notable for Les Comparses (on Sunday), in which good-humoured rival groups throw boiled sweets (candies) at each other. Vinanova's and Sitge's carnival are rivals.

Tarragonamarker has 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 groups with fireworks (the devils, the dragon, the ox, the female dragon). Carnival groups stand out for their clothes full of elegance, showing brilliant examples of fabric crafts, at the Saturday and Sunday parades. About 5,000 people are members of the parade groups.

Latin America and the Caribbean


In Argentinamarker, 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 to 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 than in the above mentioned places.


La Diablada carnival, takes place in the city of Oruro in central Boliviamarker. 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.


An important part of the Brazilian Carnival takes place in the Rio Carnival, with samba schools parading in the Sambadrome ("sambódromo" in Portuguese). It's the largest carnival event in this country, considered to be the largest of the kind in the world. Called "One of the biggest shows of the Earth", the festival attracts millions of tourists, both Brazilians and foreigners who come from everywhere to participate and enjoy the great show. Samba Schools are large, social entities with thousands of members and a theme for their song and parade each year. Blocos are generally small informal groups also with a definite theme in their samba, usually satirical of the current political situation. But there are also a lot, about 30 of them in Rio de Janeiro, that are very big in number of participants, gathering hundreds of thousands of people. There are more than 200 blocos in Rio de Janeiro. Bandas are samba musical bands, usually formed by enthusiasts in the same neighborhood.

An adapted truck from Salvadormarker, with giant speakers and a platform where musicians play songs of local genres such as Axé music, Samba-reggae, Pagode and Arrocha, is driven with the following crowd both dancing and singing. It was originally staged by two Salvador musicians, Dodo & Osmar, in the 1950s.

Pernambuco has large Carnival celebrations, including the Frevo, typical Pernambuco music. Another famous carnival music style from Pernambuco is Maracatu. The cities of Recifemarker and Olindamarker 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 in downtown Recife on the Saturday of carnival. Another famous event is the Noite dos Tambores Silenciosos.[6511]


Most of the islands in the Caribbean celebrate Carnival. The largest and most well-known celebration is held in Trinidad and Tobagomarker. Dominican Republicmarker, Antiguamarker, Arubamarker, Cayman Islandsmarker, Barbadosmarker, Haitimarker, Dominicamarker, Grenadamarker, Jamaicamarker, Sint Maartenmarker, Saint Luciamarker, Saint Kittsmarker, Saint Thomasmarker and Saint Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker are also known for lengthy carnival seasons and large celebrations.

Carnival is an important cultural event on the Dutch Antilles islands of Arubamarker, Curaçaomarker, Sint Maartenmarker, Sabamarker, Sint Eustatiusmarker (Statia), and Bonairemarker. 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.

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.

Carnival in Barbados is known as Crop Over. Crop Over is Barbados' biggest festival, having had its early beginnings on the sugar cane plantations during the colonial period. The crop over tradition began in 1688, and featured singing, dancing and accompaniment by bottles filled with water, shak-shak, banjo, triangle, fiddle, guitar, and bones. Other traditions included climbing a greased pole, feasting and drinking competitions. Originally a celebration signaling the end of the yearly sugar cane harvest , it has since evolved into a national festival rivaling New Orleans Mardis Gras and Trinidad Carnival in Trinidad. In the late 20th Century, the general schematic of Crop Over began to closely mirror the Trinidad Carnival. Beginning in June, Crop Over it runs until the first Monday in August when it culminates in the finale, The Grand Kadooment.

For the entire two months life for many islanders is one big party with a major feature of crop over being the calypso competition. Calypso music, originating in Trinidad, uses syncopated rhythm and topical lyrics and gives its exponents a medium in which to satirise local politics and comment on the issues of the day, while taking nothing away from the general bacchanal. Calypso tents, also originating in Trinidad, feature their cadre of calypsonians who perform biting social commentaries on the happenings of the past year, political exposés or rousing exhortations to wuk dah waistline and roll dat bumper. There are craft markets, food tents and stalls, street parties and cavalcades every week supplemented by daily events at Tim’s on the Highway, the new home of the Barbados Cropover Festival.

Competition 'tents' ring with the fierce battle of calypsonians for the coveted Calypso Monarch Award and the air is redolent with the exotic smells of Bajan cooking during the Bridgetown Market Street Fair. Rich with the spirit of local culture, the Cohobblopot Festival blends dance and drama and music with the crowning of the King and Queen of costume bands. Every evening the 'Pic-o-de-Crop' Show is performed when finally the King of Calypso is crowned. The climax of the festival is Kadooment Day celebrated with a national holiday when costume bands fill the streets with pulsating Barbadian rhythms and fireworks that ignite the sky.

Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad & Tobago, Carnival is a holiday season that lasts over a month and culminates in large celebrations in Port of Spainmarker 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.

Floats in Trinidad's Carnival celebration
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.

Trinidad Carnival has been copied by many of the islands in the West Indiesmarker. Most notably Barbadosmarker crop over, St. Vincentmarker, and Antiguamarker carnival. Calypso, soca, steelpan, the costumes, the competitions (such as Panorama, Calypso Monarch, King and Queen of the bands, and roadmarch king), were all pioneered by Trinidad and Tobagomarker carnival and copied throughout the caribbean. Torontomarker Caribana, and Miamimarker carnival also have their roots in Trinidadmarker carnival.


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 Colombiamarker. 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 Cartagenamarker, Bogotámarker and Popayánmarker.

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 Barranquillamarker (see Barranquilla Carnival), in other villages along the lower Magdalena Rivermarker in northern Colombia, and in Pastomarker, 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.


In Ecuadormarker, 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 excommunication 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 Guarandamarker (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 Azoguesmarker (Cañar Province). In Azogues and the Southern Andes in general, the Taita Carnaval is always an indigenous Cañari dressed for the celebrations. Recently also a celebration has gained prominence in the northern part of the Sierra in the Chota Valleymarker in Imbabura which is a zone of a strong afro-Ecuadorian population and so the Carnival is celebrated with bomba del chota music.

French Guiana

The Carnival of French Guianamarker 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 Cayennemarker, 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.

Four touloulous
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 cannoteven 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 is based principally on text in The French wikipedia


The largest Carnival celebration in Guatemalamarker is in Mazatenangomarker.During the month of February, Mazatenango is famous for its eight day Carnival Feast. Locals and visitors alike look forward to the days of food, music, parades, games, etc. that bring the streets of the capital city of the department of Suchitepéquezmarker to life. As one Guatemalan website states, “To mention the carnival of Mazatenango is to bring to mind moments of a happy and cordial party. In the eight days of this celebration's duration the local residents have kept alive the traditions of the Department.”


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


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

In the Nicaragua's capital city, Managuamarker, 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.

There's also a Festival In Managua which is called " Santo Domingo de Guzman" wich lasts ten days.


In Mexico, Carnival is celebrated in many cities and towns, most notably in Mazatlán, Sinaloamarker, Mérida, Yucatánmarker, and in the city of Veracruzmarker, where Carnival is celebrated with traditional music, folklore, arts and dances. People dress in bright, feathered costumes resembling the indigenous traditions, and create a series of performances on the streets as well as on stages. In most cases there is a large set-up of fair games and roller coasters. Both Mazatlán's and Veracruz's celebrations are often compared to the carnival of Rio de Janeiromarker or New Orleansmarker. In Copándaro de Galeanamarker, Michoacánmarker carnival is celebrated with lively parades often surrounding bull riding, cockfights and dancing.

In some of the central to northern regions the popular Norteña and Mexican rodeo influences are very present, whereas in the coastal or southern regions, carnivals represent a more indigenous rendition. Each one will include many region-specific food dishes and drinks.


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 Citymarker 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.


The Carnival in Uruguaymarker is the longest of the world, with more than 80 days of celebration, generally occurring in January through mid March, with celebrations in Montevideomarker, the capital, being the largest and brightiest. The festival is performed in the European parade style with elements from Bantu and Angolanmarker Benguela cultures imported with slaves in colonial times. The main attractions of Uruguayan Carnival include two colorful parades called Desfile de Carnaval (Carnival Parade) and Desfile de Llamadas (Calls Parade, a candombe-summoning parade).

During the eighty days of celebration, popular theaters called tablados are built in many places throughout the cities, especially in Montevideo. Traditionally formed by men and now starting to be open to women, the different Carnival groups called mainly Murgas, Lubolos or Parodistas perform a kind of popular opera at the tablados, singing and dancing songs that generally relate to social reality and political situation in the country. The 'Calls' groups, basically formed by drummers playing the tamboril, perform candombe rhythmic figures. Revelers also wear their festival clothing. Each group has its own theme. Women wearing elegant, bright dressed are called vedettes and provide the sensual touch to parades.

European archetypes (Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbina) merge with African ancestral elements (the Old Mother or Mama Vieja, the Medicine Man or Gramillero and the Magician or Escobero) in the local version of the festival. As a manifestation of Uruguayan culture and a growing tourist attraction, Uruguayan Carnival is currently receiving important governmental support.


Carnival in Venezuela (2 days of festivals, 40 days before Easter) 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. this time of the year is one of the best there. people makes jokes and you dress up and have a lot of fun![6512].

North America


Caribana, held in Torontomarker on the first weekend of August, has its origins in the carnival traditions of the Caribbean, notably Trinidad and Tobagomarker. 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. [6513] 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, were first celebrated in the Gulf Coast area of the United States, but now occur in many other states. Customs originated in the onetime French colonial capitals of Mobile (now in Alabamamarker), New Orleansmarker (Louisianamarker) and Biloximarker (Mississippimarker), all of which have celebrated for many years with street parades and masked balls. Other major U.S. cities with celebrations include Tampa, Floridamarker, St. Louis, Missourimarker, Pensacola, Floridamarker, San Diego, Californiamarker, Galveston, Texasmarker, Austin, Texasmarker, Orlando, Floridamarker, etc.

The best-known, most elaborate, and most popular events are in New Orleans, while other South Louisiana cities such as Lafayettemarker, Mamoumarker, and Houmamarker, 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, Missourimarker, Orlando, Florida in Universal Studios, and in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, California.

See also


  • 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
  1. Online Etymology Dictionary
  2. The Annual Phallus Festival in Greece, Der Spiegel, English edition, Retrieved on the 15-12-08

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