Carnival is a public celebration, combining some elements of a circus and public street party, generally during the Carnival Season. Carnival is mostly a tradition of long-time Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Christian Orthodox areas of the world. Most Protestant and non-Christian areas do not celebrate it.
The Carnival Season is a holiday period during the two weeks before the traditional Christian fast of Lent.
Carnival is celebrated in Central America, Europe, South America, the United States, the Caribbean Islands and by Christians throughout the world. Carnival comes from the Latin word carne vale which means 'farewell to meat', but today's definition generally is to give up or abstain from the pleasures of favorite foods during the Lenten season. It is celebrated by masked balls, lavish costumes, parades, dancing, fireworks and feasting on all types of food.
Places especially noted for elaborate Carnival celebrations include Aalborg in Denmark, 's-Hertogenbosch, Maastricht in The Netherlands, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz in Germany, Portugal, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador, Recife and Olinda in Brazil, Barranquilla and Pasto in Colombia, Port-of-Spain in Trinidad, Santiago in Cuba, Venice in Italy, Nice in France, New Orleans (See New Orleans Mardi Gras), Brooklyn, New York and Mobile, Alabama in the USA, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Cádiz in Spain, Binche, Eupen, Hasselt and Malmédy in Belgium.
Perhaps the most famous Carnival celebration takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The celebration goes on for four days. There are parades, costume balls, dancing and celebration after celebration.
Italy's famous Carnival celebration takes place in the gondola city of Venice. This is an opportunity for everyone to put on a costume and celebrate amongst each other. Rich and poor gather together to participate in Carnevale celebrations and there are no cares of who is rich and who is poor.
The Quebec City Winter Carnival is the most famous carnival celebration on winter theme in the world. It depends a lot 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 observe the lunar based Easter celebration but is fixed instead to the last days of January and first days of February of the solar calendar.
Most of the islands in the Caribbean celebrate carnival. The largest and most famous carnival celebration is held in Trinidad. Curaçao, Barbados, and Saint Thomas are also known for lengthy carnival seasons and large celebrations.
The United States carries on a flamboyant Carnival celebration which begins two weeks before Ash Wednesday in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the last day of celebration in New Orleans and is named this because the day before Lent begins was generally the time to use up all of the milk, butter and eggs in the kitchen. The New Orleans celebration is perhaps the most attended. It has attracted over one million people every year and is known for it's King's Balls and it's Parades full of decorated floats, marching jazz bands, and the tossing out of decorative beads. These parades are given by the Krewes, which are private clubs that sponsor not only the parades, but the parties and the lavish balls. Beignets, which are square doughnuts, along with King Cakes, are also associated with the Carnival Season in New Orleans. King Cakes are round cakes that are frosted with sugar in the three colors associated with Mardi Gras. These colors are Purple, Green and Gold. Tiny dolls are hidden in the King Cakes and whoever receives the piece of cake that contains the baby doll is the person who holds the next King's Ball.
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia, is a well-known pride parade.
Beautiful costumes, great music and the wonderful energy and spirit of Virgin Island's people make the Adults Parade a success every year. Usually only adults participate in this adult carnival celebration, however some older children also allowed. Politicians, professors, businesses people, doctors, secretaries, even visitors perform in the adult's parade. The parade is a wonderful celebration to see and participate in!
From Venice to Rio to New Orleans, wherever and however you celebrate Carnival, enjoy the opportunity to indulge, feast and frolic in all of your favorite foods, desserts and baked goods before beginning the 40 days of Lent!