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This article describes a type of celebration. For other meanings, please see Carnival (disambiguation).

A carnival parade 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. The origin of the name "Carnival" is unclear as there are several theories. The most commonly known theory states that the name comes from the Italian carne- or carnovale, from Latin carnem (meat) + levare (lighten or raise), literally "to remove the meat" or "stop eating meat". It has also been claimed that it comes from the Latin words caro (meat) and vale (farewell), hence "Farewell to meat". (Or, of course, farewell to the flesh, letting go of the eartly bodily you) Yet another theory states that it originates from the Latin carrus navalis, which was some kind of Greek cart carrying a statue of a god in a religious procession at the annual festivities in honour of the god Apollo. Most commonly the season began on Septuagesima, the third from the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, but in some places it started as early as Twelfth Night, continuing until Lent. This period of celebration and partying had its origin in the need to use up all remaining meat and animal products such as eggs and butter before the fasting season. The celebration of Carnival ends on "Mardi Gras" (French for "Fat Tuesday", meaning Shrove Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday, when the rigours of Lent's 40 days of fasting and sacrifice begin. It sometimes lasts until Piñata Weekend, the first Saturday and Sunday of Lent.


Origins of the Carnival season

It is sometimes said that this festival came from Saturnalia, Saturn's festival, and Lupercalia[1]. In the later Roman period, these festivals were characterized by wanton raillery and unbridled freedom, and were in a manner a temporary subversion of civil order. Historians think that this spirit was transmitted to the Carnival.

Another theory, esp. prominent in Switzerland probably predates Christianity. The festival was linked to the beginning of spring, and the idea behind Carnival was to scare evil spirits away. This is usually done with processions, where the participants wore horrible masks, and where everyone that could would make loud noises and music with whatever was available. Later on, the processions were devoted to Patron-saints, the two most prominent being the virgin Mary or the Saint the local church was christened to.

In ancient times, carnival was held to begin on 6th January and lasted until midnight of Shrove Tuesday. Some believe that this period of license represents the kind of compromise the church tended to make with pagan festivals and that carnival really represents the Roman Saturnalia. Rome has always been the headquarters of carnival, and though some popes, notably Clement IX and XI and Benedict XIII, made efforts to stem the tide of Bacchanalian revelry, many of the popes were great patrons and promoters of carnival-keeping.

Special celebrations around the world

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. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia, is a well-known pride parade. The Quebec City Winter Carnival is the biggest winter-themed carnival 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.


Oruro's Diablada is a popular back-packing destination. One of the most authentic carnivals in South America is La Diablada carnival, which takes place in the city of Oruro, in central Bolivia. The carnival is being celebrated in honor of the Saint patroness of the miners - Virgen de Socavon (the tunnel's virgin).

The carnival is celebrated in a parade of over 50 dance groups that dance, play and sing over a 5 km long course. The groups dress up as demons, Satans, Incas and Spanish conquerors. The parade is celebrated every day from morning until late night (18 hours a day).

It is often viewed as one of the world's last "authentic" cultural celebrations.


main article: Brazilian Carnival.

The main festivity in Brazilian Carnival takes place in Rio de Janeiro, with its samba schools, blocos and bandas which occupy entire neighbourhoods. In some cities of the Northeastern Region, there is another form of the Brazilian Carnival: the Trio Elétrico. A trio elétrico is an adapted truck, with giant speakers and a platform where musicians play songs of local genres such as Axé music and Maracatu.

Caribbean Carnival

main article: Caribbean Carnival.

Most of the islands in the Caribbean celebrate carnival. The largest and most well-known celebration is held in Trinidad. Curaçao, Barbados, and Saint Thomas are also known for lengthy carnival seasons and large celebrations.


In Trinidad, Carnival is a holiday season that lasts over a month and culminates in large celebrations in Port-of-Spain on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with Dimanche Gras, J'ouvert, and Mas (masquerade). Carnival is a festive time of costumes, dance, music, competitions, rum, and partying. Music styles associated with Carnival include soca, calypso, and steelpan.

"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 "goodbye to the flesh" or "welcome to daybreak" (depending on the interpretation). Here revellers dress in old clothes and cover themselves in mud, oil paint and body paint. A common character to be seen at this time are "Jab-jabs" (devils, either 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.

Carnival Monday involves the parade of the mas bands, but on a casual or relaxed scale. Here revellers 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 revellers) 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 usually goes on into the night of the Tuesday. Ash Wednesday itself, whilst not an official holiday, is marked by most by visiting the various 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.


Main article: Carnival in Colombia

Although, it was introduced by the Spaniards and has incorporated elements from the European cultures, it has managed to syncretise or to re-interpret traditions that belonged to the African and Amerindian cultures of Colombia. There is documentary evidence that the carnival existed in Colombia in the XVIII century and had already caused concerned to the colonial authorities, who censored the celebrations, especially in the mains centers of power such as Cartagena, Bogotá and Popayan. 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 Barranquilla (Barranquilla Carnival), and other villages along the lower Magdalena River in northern Colombia, and in Pasto, Nariño (Blacks and Whites Carnival), in the south of the country. In modern times, there have been attempts to introduce the carnival in the capital, Bogotá, in the early XX century, but it has always failed to gain the approval of authorities. The Bogota Carnival has had to wait until the XXI century to be resurrected, this time, by the authorities of the city.


Carnival In Aalborg

Aalborg has been the host of a surprisingly large carnival for many years. The carnival in Aalborg parade is one of the largest in Northern Europe. The carnival takes place in the end of May. During the carnival there are three major events:

The Big Carnival, Children's Carnival And Battle of Carnival Bands

The Big Carnival

There are usually about 25.000 people participating in the big carnival parade every year, and more than 75.000 spectators take their places along the route to catch a glimpse of this magnificent wave of people, colours and happiness giving homage to spring and fantasy.

Every year the participants create their costumes according to a different theme. The theme for Aalborg Carnival 2004 was for instance Atlantis. The Big Carnival begins with a huge parade. professional troops from England, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Chile, Bulgaria and Bolivia participates. What distinguishes the Carnival in Aalborg from most other carnivals, however, is the possibility of joining the parade without being part of a professional group or an authorised samba-dancer. In other words, the town is transformed into a gigantic theatre with you and the people as the performers, the street as the stage and the body as a dancing sculpture. You do not have to sign up anywhere; you just join the parade at one of the four starting-points.Besides the parade in the streets there is a parade on the water. A group of decorated boats sails the channel going through town. The two parades meet at the harbor to honor the King of the Carnival, who is elected each year. The King then leads the entire parade to"Kildeparken," a park situated in the centre of town. There will be music and dancing in the park all day long and plenty of possibilities to meet interesting people. The Carnival ends with a grand firework display on the harbour.

The Battle of Carnival Bands

On the day before the big carnival, The Battle of Carnival Bands is an exciting and colourful evening with processions through the city where all the participating groups compete to be the leading carnival group. On Friday and Saturday the stage is set for the Battle of Carnival Bands. The invited groups are competing to be announced as the carnival band of the year. Every year lots of interesting carnival groups from around the world visit Aalborg to participate in this extraordinary event.

The Aalborg Carnival parade presents several different carnival traditions apart from welcoming the spring. For example, many people have taken inspiration from South American samba rhythms, so there now are many colourful samba dancers in Aalborg's parade. At the carnival in Aalborg, the spring is praised by a local samba group Poco Loco, which will enlighten the streets with joyful dance, music and colourful costumes in the streets.

Carrus Navalis

Every year a boat - Carrus Navalis - is pulled through the streets of Aalborg. This has its origin in a thousand year old tradition,which is well known in Northern Jutland. At the local museum, there is evidence which shows that this tradition dates back to 1895, when the Shipmasters' Association arranged parades through the streets of Aalborg. In the boat there were sailors and around it and there were musicians walking with collecting boxes. The rich people of Aalborg then had to give some money for the needy.


In England 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 Carnival survived the Reformation. Caribbean influence has led to the establishment of several "West Indian" carnivals, but these are not held in Carnival season. The leading festivities are Notting Hill Carnival in August (reputedly the world's largest), and Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival in November.

Over 100 smaller rural village and town carnivals still survive across the UK, sometimes taking note of Carribean and European styles but striving to maintain their individuality and local community spirit. Devizes in Wiltshire, for example, has a week of carnival festivities which includes a street festival and a traditional confetti battle. Several have perfomance and holiday parade charters(now historical documents) going back many hundreds of years.

In Somerset, carnivals are held in October and November each year, and generally consist of a parade of illuminated floats or carts, with one or two marching bands, groups of cheerleaders, and individuals walking in costume. Often these parades are also a competition for best float and best walking entrant categories. Carnivals are arranged into circuits, and so the same floats can be seen in different towns over the carnival period. Circuits and Carnival Clubs (societies who build and run floats) put a lot of effort in to fundraising for the carnivals as well as charity, and to this end there are often collectors with buckets walking in the procession, and in most places one or two floats used specially for collecting money, usually allowing the spectators to throw their contribution onto the float. Bigger carnivals will sometimes also include a funfair, fireworks display or food stalls such as a beer tent.

German-speaking countries

Germany, especially the western part (North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate) is famous for Karneval celebrations such as parades and costume balls. Whilst these events are widespread in all big and smaller places of that area, only Cologne, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Mainz, Bonn are supposed to be carnival "strongholds". In the South of Germany carnival is called Fasching and especially Munich developed a special kind of it.

German Carnival parades are held on the weekend before and especially on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), the day before Shrove Tuesday, but the carnival season, the so called "fifth season", officially begins on November 11th (11/11) at 11:11 a.m. and finishes on Ash Wednesday.

In the Rhineland as the most typical Carnival region, 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. Today all Carnival Clubs are assembled in the German Carnival Association.

The "Swabian-Alemannic" carnival only begins on January 6 (Epiphany/Three Kings Day). This celebration is known as Fastnacht (literally "Fasting Eve" as it originally only referred to the eve of the fasting season). Variants are Fasnet, Fasnacht or Fasent. Fastnacht is held in Baden-Württemberg, parts of Bavaria, and Alsace. Switzerland and Vorarlberg, 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"; "Greasy Thursday". Elsewhere the day is called "Women's Carnival" (Weiberfastnacht), being the day when tradition says that women take control.


In Austria, Carnival is called Fasching and is generally celebrated in several types of events.

First, there are parties called Faschingsfest or Gschnas, where people dress up in funny costumes, similar to what Americans do at Halloween. Such parties are often held in private homes. Children are often encouraged to come to school in their costume on the Faschingsdienstag (=Mardi Gras), and even some adults come to their workplace in a costume.

Second, January and February are the high season for ballroom dancing, with a large number of balls talking place especially in the Hofburg and other palaces in Vienna, including the famous Vienna Opera Ball.

Third, in many towns and villages the local Faschingsgilden (Carnival Guilds) meet and offer their comedy programs to the public. Other than in Germany, where similar events tend to be ritualistic and ceremonial (the German events, even though they were sometimes broadcoast on Austrian TV in the past, are increasingly considered boring by Austrians), the Austrian events focus on stand-up comedy and political satire. The most famous event is the Villacher Fasching in Villach, Carinthia, which draws a TV audience of about 25% of the Austrian population every year. Politicians often attend the event and are then shown on TV laughing when the joke is on them.


In the Netherlands, the last day of Carnival (carnaval) is held exactly 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, making the days of celebration vary between 4 January and 28 February. Carnival in The Netherlands is the oldest in the west of the southern province Noord Brabant. Here carnival is known as Vastenavend (literally "Fasting evening"). Most popular and even renowned places where Vastenavend is held (although every city, town or village celebrates it) are 's-Hertogenbosch, Bergen op Zoom and Breda. Carnival here has been celebrated ever since the medieval times and was modernized after WW II, Bergen op Zoom even continued to celebrate it indoors. Although the west of Noord Brabant may have the oldest Carnival, it is the south of the most southern province of The Netherlands, Limburg, where many Dutch go to celebrate it. During Vasteloavend (Carnival in the local dialect), every town is one big party.

During Dutch Carnival, many traditions are kept alive, like the boerenbruiloft (farmer's wedding) and the haring happen (eating haring) at Ash Wednesday but the traditions vary from town to town. Overall there are three different types of Carnival celebrated in The Netherlands. The most well-known variant is known as the Rijnlandsche Carnival and it shares many folklore traditions with its German and Belgium counterparts. Maastricht is famous for its Carnival which mimics Italian, mostly Venician, traditions, culture and costumes. The third variant can be found in 's-Hertogenbosch, or Oeteldonk as they call it during the festivities. The Oeteldonksche Carnival shares very little traditions and folklore with the rest of the Netherlands and they have celebrated it in their specific way ever since in 1882 the first official Federation for Carnaval (De Oeteldonksche Club) was erected, long before the Carnival was modernised and adopted in the rest of The Netherlands.


In La Ceiba in Honduras carnival is held on the third Saturday of every May to commemorate San Isidro, and is the largest in Central America.


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 [2]. Maskmakers (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 also effectively 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.


In Poland the traditional way of celebrating the Carnival is kulig, a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered countryside. The Polish Carnival Season includes Fat Thursday (Polish: Tłusty Czwartek) - a day for eating pączki - and Śledziówka (Shrove Tuesday), or Herring Day (herring is a traditional Polish appetizer for drinking vodka).


When Lent ends, the Saturday following Holy Week is celebrated in a festival in Murcia, Spain. Called the Sardine's Funeral Parade it marks the end of the period when it is mandatory to eat fish and vegetables only. Other places famous for their carnivals are Cádiz and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital city of Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands. The Carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria[3] is one of the most typical and famous parties of the city, and is not only well known in Spain, but also has a worldwide fame.


Many carnivals also have an associated funfair (or fun fair) with a number of amusement rides and sidestalls. In America a smaller or non-permanent funfair is called a carnival in contrast to the permanent amusement park.

See also Circus (performing art).

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

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