- For the Colecovision game, see Carnival.
- See also: Carnival Corporation, Carnival Cruise Lines, Carnivàle
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". 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. 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 's-Hertogenbosch and Maastricht in The Netherlands, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz in Germany, 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) and Mobile, Alabama in the USA, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Cádiz in Spain, Hasselt 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.
See Brazilian Carnival.
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 in November.
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 High 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 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. 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 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.
A temporary (often annual) amusement park with mobile rides etc. is called a fun fair (also written funfair) or carnival.
See also Circus (performing art).
- 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
Last updated: 10-12-2005 01:49:10