What Is Carnival When and Why Is It Celebrated?
Carnival is a festival celebrated in many countries and regions of the world, typically in the days leading up to Lent, the time of fasting and penance in the Christian calendar. Known for its colorful parades, costumes, music and street parties, the festival is a time of joyful celebration and revelry. There is more to Carnival than celebrations and fellowship; it is also an important historical and cultural marker reflecting the varied cultures, beliefs, and practices of people from all over the world.
The following oneHOWTO article explains what Carnival is, what its origins are and where it is celebrated.
What is carnival and when is it?
Carnival is a festival celebrated in many countries and regions of the world, typically in the days leading up to Lent, the period of fasting and penance in the Christian calendar. Known for its colorful parades, costumes, music and street parties, the festival is a time of joyful celebration and revelry.
Today, Carnival is most associated with the countries of Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean, where it is celebrated on a grand scale with elaborate parades, costumes, and street parties. But Carnival is also celebrated in other parts of the world, each with its own unique traditions and customs.
Carnival is an important opportunity for people to come together and celebrate as a community. It can also generate revenue for local businesses, create jobs, and support the local economy in the communities where it takes place. The celebration is an essential cultural and historical marker that reflects the different traditions, beliefs, and practices of different communities around the world.
When is carnival celebrated?
Carnival is usually celebrated in the days preceding Lent, the period of fasting and penance in the Christian calendar. The exact dates of Carnival can vary depending on the country or region where it is celebrated, as can the date of Easter, which determines the beginning of Lent.
Overall, the exact dates of Carnival may vary by country or region and may be influenced by factors such as religious traditions, cultural practices, and historical events.
Origins of carnival
The origins of Carnival can be traced back to ancient pagan festivals that celebrated the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature. These festivals were often marked by feasting, drinking, dancing and other forms of revelry.
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, many of these pagan festivals were incorporated into the Christian calendar, especially as a prelude to the season of fasting and penance known as Lent. The name "Carnival" itself comes from the Latin phrase "carne vale," meaning "farewell to meat," reflecting the traditional abstinence from meat during Lent.
In many Catholic countries, Carnival became a time of celebration before the beginning of Lent, when people indulged in food, drink and other pleasures before Lent and abstinence. The festival was also an opportunity for social and political commentary, as people often used costumes and parades to poke fun at authority figures and social norms.
In Brazil, Carnival was adopted by the Portuguese colonizers and adapted to African and indigenous traditions such as samba music and dance. In Trinidad and Tobago, Carnival was influenced by the island's Afro-Caribbean culture and became known for its calypso music, steel drum bands, and masquerade contests.
If you want to learn more about this topic, do not miss the following article, where we explain in detail the history and origins of Carnival.
Why do people wear costumes in carnival?
Wearing costumes is a central part of many Carnival celebrations. In many places, wearing costumes during Carnival is a long-standing tradition that reflects the cultural history and customs of each community. In Venice, Italy, for example, elaborate masks and costumes have been a part of Carnival since the 18th century.
Carnival is a time of celebration and fun, and wearing costumes can be a way to escape the daily grind and let loose. Wearing a costume allows people to express themselves in ways they might not be able to in their normal lives. Wearing costumes provides a sense of anonymity and freedom that allows people to explore different aspects of their identity or express themselves in new ways without fear of judgment.
Where is carnival celebrated?
Carnival is celebrated in many parts of the world, each with its own unique traditions and customs. Here are some examples of how Carnival is celebrated in different parts of the world:
- Brazil: Carnival in Brazil is perhaps the most famous and largest Carnival celebration in the world. It is characterized by elaborate parades featuring samba music and dance, colorful costumes, and huge floats. The most famous Carnival celebration takes place in Rio de Janeiro, where samba schools compete in the Sambadrome, a massive stadium built specifically for Carnival.
- Trinidad and Tobago: In Trinidad and Tobago, Carnival is a mix of African, Indian, and European traditions. It is characterized by calypso music, steel drum bands, and masquerade competitions. One of the highlights of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is the Jouvert celebration, which takes place in the early morning hours and involves participants covering themselves in mud and paint.
- Venice, Italy: Carnival in Venice is known for its elaborate masks and costumes, which date back to the 18th century. During Carnival, the streets of Venice are filled with people wearing ornate masks and costumes, and there are also parades and masquerade balls.
- New Orleans, Louisiana: Carnival in New Orleans, also known as Mardi Gras, is known for its colorful parades featuring floats, marching bands, and throws such as beads and doubloons. It is also characterized by street parties and costumed revelry.
- Barranquilla, Colombia: Carnival in Barranquilla is the second-largest Carnival celebration in South America after Rio de Janeiro. It is characterized by cumbia music, colorful costumes, and folkloric dances.
Each celebration is unique, reflecting the diverse traditions and cultural practices of different communities.
You may be interested in this other article, where we explain how to make a Venice carnival mask.
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