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Carnival (see other spellings and names) is a Western Christian festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent.  The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide (or Pre-Lent). Carnival typically involves a public celebration and/or parade combining some elements of a circus, masks, and a public street party. People wear masks and costumes during many such celebrations, allowing them to lose their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity.  Excessive consumption of alcohol,  meat, and other foods proscribed during Lent is extremely common. Other common features of carnival include mock battles such as food fights; social satire and mockery of authorities; the grotesque bodydisplaying exaggerated features, especially large noses, bellies, mouths, and phalli, or elements of animal bodies; abusive language and degrading acts; depictions of disease and gleeful death; and a general reversal of everyday rules and norms.  

The term Carnival is traditionally used in areas with a large Catholic presence. However, the Philippines, a predominantly Roman Catholiccountry, does not celebrate Carnival anymore since the dissolution of the Manila Carnival after 1939, the last carnival in the country.  In historically Lutherancountries, the celebration is known as Fastelavn,    and in areas with a high concentration of Anglicans and Methodists, pre-Lenten celebrations, along with penitential observances, occur on Shrove Tuesday.  In Slavic Eastern Orthodoxnations, Maslenitsa is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent. In German-speaking Europe and the Netherlands, the Carnival season traditionally opens on 11/11 (often at 11:11 a.m.). This dates back to celebrations before the Advent season or with harvest celebrations of St. Martin's Day.

Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is the biggest in the world, followed jointly by Barranquilla, Colombia and the Notting Hill Carnival in London.    


The Latin-derived name of the holiday is sometimes also spelled Carnaval, typically in areas where Dutch, German, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are spoken, or Carnevale in Italian-speaking contexts. Alternative names are used for regional and local celebrations.

The origin may be from the Italian word carne (meat) or carrus (car). The former suggests an origin within Christianity, while the alternative links to earlier religions.

Folk etymologies  state that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying the approaching fast. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, producing "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrants to embolden the festival's carefree spirit. However, this interpretation is not supported by philological evidence.

The Italian carne levare is one possible origin, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent.

Other scholars argue for the origin from the Roman name for the festival of the Navigium Isidis ("ship of Isis"), where the image of Isis was carried to the seashore to bless the start of sailing season.  The festival consisted of a parade of masks following an adorned wooden boat, possibly the source of the floats that many see at Carnivals today.



From the anthropological point of view, carnival is a reversal ritual, in which social roles are reversed and norms about desired behavior are suspended.

Winter was thought of as the reign of the winter spirits; these needed to be driven out in order for the summer to return. Carnival can thus be regarded as a rite of passage from darkness to light, from winter to summer: a fertility celebration, the first spring festival of the new year.

Traditionally, a carnival feast was the last opportunity for common people to eat well, as there was typically a food shortage at the end of the winter as stores ran out. Until spring produce was available, people were limited to the minimum necessary meals during this period. On what nowadays is called vastenavond (the days before fasting), all the remaining winter stores of lard, butter, and meat which were left would be eaten, for these would otherwise soon start to rot and decay. The selected livestock had already been slaughtered in November and the meat would be no longer preservable. All the food that had survived the winter had to be eaten to assure that everyone was fed enough to survive until the coming spring would provide new food sources.

Several Germanic tribes celebrated the returning of the daylight. The winter would be driven out, to make sure that fertility could return in spring.  A central figure of this ritual was possibly the fertility goddess Nerthus. Also, there are some indications that the effigy of Nerthus or Freyr was placed on a ship with wheels and accompanied by a procession of people in animal disguise and men in women's clothes Aboard the ship a marriage would be consummated as a fertility ritual.

Tacitus wrote in his Germania: Germania 9.6: Ceterum nec cohibere parietibus deos neque in ullam humani oris speciem adsimulare ex magnitudine caelestium arbitrator – "The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance." Germania 40: mox vehiculum et vestis et, si credere velis, numen ipsum secreto lacu abluitur – "Afterwards the car, the vestments, and, if you like to believe it, the divinity herself, are purified in a secret lake."

Traditionally, the feast also was a time to indulge sexual desires, which were supposed to be suppressed during the following fasting.   24] Before Lent began, all rich food and drink were consumed in what became a giant celebration that involved the whole community, and is thought to be the origin of Carnival.

In many Christian sermons and texts, the example of a vessel is used to explain Christian doctrine: "the nave of the church of baptism", "the ship of Mary", etc. The writings show that processions with ship-like carts were held and lavish feasts were celebrated on the eve of Lent or the greeting of spring in the early Middle Ages. The Catholic church condemned this "devilish debauchery" and "pagan rituals". As early as the year 325, the First Council of Nicaea attempted to end these pagan festivals.  

The Lenten period of the liturgical calendar, the six weeks directly before Easter, was historically marked by fasting, study, and other pious or penitential practices. During Lent, no parties or celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fat, and sugar. The first three classes were often totally unavailable during this period because of late winter shortages.

While Christian festivals such as Corpus Christi were church-sanctioned celebrations, Carnival was also a manifestation of European folk culture. In the Christian tradition, the fasting is to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert, according to the New Testament, and also to reflect on Christian values. It was a time for adult converts to prepare for baptism at Easter. As with other Christian festivals such as Christmas, which was originally a pagan midwinter festival, the Christian church has found it easier to absorb the pagan Carnaval into its religious tradition than to eliminate it.

Carnival in the Middle Ages took not just a few days, but almost the entire period between Christmas and the beginning of Lent. In those two months, Catholic populations used several Catholic holidays as an outlet for their daily frustrations.

Many synods and councils attempted to set things "right". Caesarius of Arles (470–542) protested around 500 CE in his sermons against the pagan practices. Centuries later, his statements were adapted as the building blocks of the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum ("small index of superstitious and pagan practices"), which was drafted by the Synod of Leptines in 742. It condemned the Spurcalibus en februario.  

Pope Gregory the Great (590–604) decided that fasting would start on Ash Wednesday. The whole Carnival event was set before the fasting, to set a clear division between the pagan and the Christian custom. It was also the custom during Carnival that the ruling class would be mocked using masks and disguises.

In the year 743, the synod in Leptines (Leptines is located near Binche in Belgium) spoke out furiously against the excesses in the month of February. Also from the same period dates the phrase: "Whoever in February by a variety of less honorable acts tries to drive out winter is not a Christian, but a pagan." Confession books from around 800 contain more information about how people would dress as an animal or old woman during the festivities in January and February, even though this was a sin with no small penance.  Also in Spain, San Isidoro de Sevilla complained in his writings in the seventh century of people coming out into the streets disguised in many cases as the opposite gender.


Gradually, the ecclesiastical authority began to realize that the desired result could not be attained by banning the traditions, which eventually led to a degree of Christianization. The festivities became part of the liturgy and the liturgical year.

While forming an integral part of the Christian calendar, particularly in Catholic regions, many Carnival traditions resemble those antedating Christianity. Italian Carnival is sometimes thought to be derived from the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek Dionysia and Oriental festivals.

While medieval pageants and festivals such as Corpus Christi were church-sanctioned, Carnival was also a manifestation of medieval folk culture. Many local Carnival customs are claimed to derive from local pre-Christian rituals, such as elaborate rites involving masked figures in the Swabian-Alemannic Fastnacht. However, evidence is insufficient to establish a direct origin from Saturnalia or other ancient festivals. No complete accounts of Saturnalia survive, and the shared features of feasting, role reversals, temporary social equality, masks, and permitted rule-breaking do not necessarily constitute a coherent festival or link these festivals. These similarities may represent a reservoir of cultural resources that can embody multiple meanings and functions. For example, Easter begins with the resurrection of Jesus, followed by a liminal period, and ends with rebirth. Carnival reverses this as King Carnival comes to life, and a liminal period follows before his death. Both feasts are calculated by the lunar calendar. Both Jesus and King Carnival may be seen as expiatory figures who make a gift to the people with their deaths. In the case of Jesus, the gift is eternal life in heaven, and in the case of King Carnival, the acknowledgement that death is a necessary part of the cycle of life.  Besides Christian anti-Judaism, the commonalities between church and Carnival rituals and imagery suggest a common root. Christ's passion is itself grotesque: since early Christianity, Christ is figured as the victim of summary judgment, and is tortured and executed by Romans before a Jewish mob ("His blood is on us and on our children!" Matthew 27:24–25). Holy Week processions in Spain include crowds who vociferously insult the figure of Jesus. Irreverence, parody, degradation, and laughter at a tragicomic effigy of God can be seen as intensifications of the sacred order. In 1466, the Catholic Church under Pope Paul II revived customs of the Saturnalia carnival: Jews were forced to race naked through the streets of the city of Rome. "Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome's taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily," an eyewitness reports.

Some of the best-known traditions, including carnal parades and masquerade balls, were first recorded in medieval Italy. The Carnival of Venice was, for a long time, the most famous carnival (although Napoleon abolished it in 1797 and only in 1979 was the tradition restored). From Italy, Carnival traditions spread to Spain, Portugal, and France, and from France to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal, it spread with colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America. In the early 19th century in the German Rhineland and Southern Netherlands, the weakened medieval tradition also revived. Continuously in the 18th and 19th centuries CE, as part of the annual Saturnalia abuse of the carnival in Rome, rabbis of the ghettowere forced to march through the city streets wearing foolish guise, jeered upon and pelted by a variety of missiles from the crowd. A petition of the Jewish community of Rome sent in 1836 to Pope Gregory XVI to stop the annual anti-semitic Saturnalia abuse got a negation: "It is not opportune to make any innovation.

In the Rhineland in 1823, the first modern Carnival parade took place in Cologne.The upper Rhineland is mostly Protestant, as is most of Northern Germany and Northern Europe. Carnaval (Fasching or Fastnacht in Germany) mixed pagan traditions with Christian traditions. Pre-Lenten celebrations featured parades, costumes and masks to endure Lent's withdrawal from worldly pleasures.

Other areas developed their own traditions. In the United Kingdom, West Indian immigrants brought with them the traditions of Caribbean Carnival; however, the Carnivals now celebrated at Notting Hill, Leeds, Yorkshire, and other places became divorced from their religious origin and became secular events that take place in the summer months.


Interpretations of Carnival present it as a social institution that degrades or "uncrowns" the higher functions of thought, speech, and the soul by translating them into the grotesque body, which serves to renew society and the world,  as a release for impulses that threaten the social order that ultimately reinforces social norms, as a social transformation, or as a tool for different groups to focus attention on conflicts and incongruities by embodying them in "senseless" acts.

Geographic distribution




Cape Verde Islands

Carnival was introduced by Portuguese settlers. The celebration is celebrated on each of the archipelago's nine inhabited islands. In Mindelo, São Vicente, groups challenge each other for a yearly prize. It has imported various Brazilian carnival traditions. The celebration in São Nicolau is more traditional, where established groups parade through the Ribeira Brava, gathering in the town square, although it has adopted drums, floats and costumes from Brazil. In São Nicolau, three groups, Copa Cabana, Estrela Azul, and Brilho Da Zona, construct a painted float using fire, newspaper for the mold, and iron and steel for structure. Carnival São Nicolau is celebrated over three days: dawn Saturday, Sunday afternoon, and Tuesday.


The Seychelles carnival began in 2011. It is held in the capital city of Victoria and takes place over three days. On Day 1, the grand opening is held in the city center near the clock tower. The second day is parade day. On Day 3, the closing ceremony is held, and a lottery winner is announced.


The Harare Carnival is held late in May. Events include fashion and music shows. The climax is a street party featuring costumes and music.



In Indonesia, the word "carnival" or karnaval is not related to pre-Lent festivities, but more to festivals in general, especially those with processions and extravagant costumes. One of the largest carnivals in Indonesia is the Solo Batik Carnival, held in Solo, Central Java. The Jember Fashion Carnaval is held in Jember, East Java.

The Roman Catholic community of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, held an Easter procession in form of an Easter Carnival called Pawai Paskah Kupang.


In India, Carnival is celebrated only in the state of Goa and a Roman Catholic tradition, where it is known as Intruz which means "swindler" while Entrudo is the appropriate word in Portuguesefor "Carnival". The largest celebration takes place in the city of Panjim, which was part of Velha Conquista in Goa, but now is celebrated throughout the state. The tradition was introduced by the Portuguese who ruled Goa for over four centuries. On Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, the European tradition of Fat Tuesday is celebrated with the eating of crepes, also called "AleBelle". The crepes are filled with freshly grated coconut and heated condensed coconut sap that sequentially converts it into a brown sweet molasses; additional heat concentration solidifies it to jaggery. The celebrations of Carnival peak for three days and nights and precede Ash Wednesday, when the legendary King Momo takes over the state. All-night parades occur throughout the state with bands, dances, and floats. Grand balls are held in the evenings.

Although Portugal introduced Christianity and the customs related to Catholic practice in India and Brazil, the celebrations in Goa like Portugal have begun to adopt some aspects of Brazilian-style Carnival celebrations, in particular those of Rio de Janeiro with sumptuous parades, samba and other musical elements.



For almost five centuries, local Greek communities throughout Istanbul celebrated Carnival with weeks of bawdy parades, lavish balls, and street parties. This continued for weeks before Lent. Baklahorani took place on Shrove Monday, the last day of the carnival season. The event was led by the Greek Orthodox community, but the celebrations were public and inter-communal. The final celebration was sited in the Kurtuluş district. In 2010, the festival was revived.




Many parts of Belgium celebrate Carnival, typically with costume parades, partying and fireworks. These areas include Aalst, Binche, Eupen, Halle, Heist, Kelmis, Maaseik, Malmedy, and Stavelot.

The Carnival of Binche dates at least to the 14th century. Parades are held over the three days before Lent; the most important participants are the Gilles, who wear traditional costumes on Shrove Tuesday and throw blood oranges to the crowd.In 2003, the Carnival of Binche was recognised as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.The Carnival of Aalst, celebrated during the three days preceding Ash Wednesday, received the same recognition in 2010.

The Carnival of Malmedy is locally called Cwarmê. Even if Malmedy is located in the east Belgium, near the German-speaking area, the Cwarmê is a pure Walloon and Latin carnival. The celebration takes place during the four days before Shrove Tuesday. The Cwarmê Sunday is the most important and insteresting to see. All the old traditional costumes parade in the street. The Cwarmê is a "street carnival" and is not only a parade. People who are disguised pass through the crowd and perform a part of the traditional costume they wear. The famous traditional costumes at the Cwarmê of Malmedy are the Haguète, the Longuès-Brèsses, and the Long-Né.

Some Belgian cities hold Carnivals during Lent. One of the best-known is Stavelot, where the Carnival de la Laetare takes place on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. The participants include the Blancs-Moussis, who dress in white, carry long red noses and parade through town attacking bystanders with confetti and dried pig bladders. The town of Halle also celebrates on Laetare Sunday. Belgium's oldest parade is the Carnival Parade of Maaseik, also held on Laetare Sunday, which originated in 1865.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Croat-majority city of Ljubuški holds a traditional Carnival (Bosnian: Karneval). Ljubuški is a member of the Federation of European Carnival Cities (FECC).


The most famous Croatian Carnival (Croatian: karneval, also called maškare or fašnik) is the Rijeka Carnival, during which the mayor of Rijeka hands over the keys to the city to the Carnival master (meštar od karnevala). The festival includes several events, culminating on the final Sunday in a masked procession. (A similar procession for children takes place on the previous weekend.)

Many towns in Croatia's Kvarner region (and in other parts of the country) observe the Carnival period, incorporating local traditions and celebrating local culture. Some of the towns and places are Grobnik, Permani, Kastav and many others places near Rijeka. Just before the end of Carnival, every Kvarner town burns a man-like doll called a "Pust", who is blamed for all the strife of the previous year. The Zvončari, or bell-ringers push away winter and all the bad things in the past year and calling spring, they wear bells and large head regalia representing their areas of origin (for example, those from Halubje wear regalia in the shape of animal heads). The traditional Carnival food is fritule, a pastry. This festival can also be called Poklade.

Masks are worn to many of the festivities, including concerts and parties. Children and teachers are commonly allowed to wear masks to school for a day, and also wear masks at school dances or while trick-or-treating. Carnivals also take place in summer. One of the most famous is the Senj Summer Carnival – first celebrated in 1968. The towns of Cres, Pag, Novi Vinodolski, and Fužine also organise Summer Carnivals.


Carnival has been celebrated in Cyprus for centuries. The tradition was likely established under Venetian rule around the 16th century. It may have been influenced by Greek traditions, such as festivities for deities such as Dionysus. The celebration originally involved dressing in costumes and holding masked balls or visiting friends. In the twentieth century, it became an organized event held during the 10 days preceding Lent (according to the Greek Orthodox calendar). The festival is celebrated almost exclusively in the city of Limassol.

Three main parades take place during Carnival. The first is held on the first day, during which the "Carnival King" (either a person in costume or an effigy) rides through the city on his carriage. The second is held on the first Sunday of the festival, and the participants are mainly children. The third and largest takes place on the last day of Carnival and involves hundreds of people walking in costume along the town's longest avenue. The latter two parades are open to anyone who wishes to participate.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, the Masopust Festival takes place from Epiphany (Den tří králů) through Ash Wednesday (Popeleční středa). The word masopust translates literally from old Czech to mean "meat fast", and the festival often includes a pork feast. The tradition is most common in Moravia but also occurs in Bohemia. While practices vary, masks and costumes are present everywhere.

Denmark and Norway

Carnival in Denmark is called Fastelavn, and is held on the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday. The holiday is sometimes described as a Nordic Halloween, with children dressing in costume and gathering treats for the Fastelavn feast. One popular custom is the fastelavnsris, a switch that children use to flog their parents to wake them up on Fastelavns Sunday.

In Norway, students having seen celebrations in Paris introduced Carnival processions, masked balls, and Carnival balls to Christiana in the 1840s and 1850s. From 1863, the artist federation Kunstnerforeningen held annual Carnival balls in the old Freemasons lodge, which inspired Johan Svendsen's compositions Norsk Kunstnerkarneval and Karneval in Paris. The following year, Svendsen's Festpolonaise was written for the opening procession. Edvard Grieg attended and wrote "Aus dem Karneval" (Folkelivsbilleder Op. 19). Since 1988, the student organization Tårnseilerne has produced annual masquerade balls in Oslo, with masks, costumes, and processions after attending an opera performance. The Carnival season also includes Fastelavens søndag (with cream buns) and fastelavensris with decorated branches.


In England, the season immediately before Lent was called Shrovetide. A time for confessing sins ("shriving"), it had fewer festivities than the Continental Carnivals. Today, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated as Pancake Day, but little else of the Lent-related Shrovetide survived the 16th-century English Reformation. Possibly the only Shrovetide Carnival in the United Kingdom is celebrated in Cowes and East Coweson the Isle of Wight.


Some major Carnivals of mainland France are the Nice Carnival, the Dunkirk Carnival and the Limoux Carnival. The Nice Carnival was held as far back as 1294, and annually attracts over a million visitors during the two weeks preceding Lent.

Since 1604, a characteristic masked Carnival is celebrated in Limoux.

The Dunkirk Carnival is among the greatest and most exuberant carnivals celebrated in Europe. Its traditions date back to the 17th century and are based on the vischerbende as fishermen went from one café to another accompanied by their relatives and friends just before departing to Icelandic fishing grounds.

In the French West Indies, it occurs between the Sunday of Epiphany and Ash Wednesday;  this dates back to the arrival of French colonists in the islands.

Germany, Switzerland, and Austria


The Karneval, Fasching, or Fastnacht season in the German-speaking world officially begins on 11 November of any given year at 11:11 AM and ends just before midnight on Ash Wednesday the following year after the Monday's Rosenmontag Parade.

The earliest written record of Carnival in Germany was in 1296 in Speyer. The first worldwide Carnival parade took place in Cologne in 1823.

The most active Carnival week begins on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, with parades during the weekend, and finishes the night before Ash Wednesday, with the main festivities occurring around Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). This time is also called the "Fifth Season". Shrove Tuesday, called Fastnacht or Veilchendienstag, is celebrated in some cities.

Parties feature self-made and more fanciful costumes and occasional masks. The parties become more exuberant as the weeks progress and peak after New Year, in January and February. The final Tuesday features all-night parties, dancing, hugging, and smooching. Some parties are for all, some for women only and some for children. Kreppel, or donuts, are the traditional Fasching food and are baked or fried.

In Germany, the Rheinische Fasching and the Schwäbische Fastnacht are distinct.

"Rheinische" Carnival (Fasching)

The "Rheinische" Carnival is held in the west of Germany, mainly in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, but also in Hesse (including Upper Hesse), Bavaria, and other states. Some cities are more famous for celebrations such as parades and costume balls. The Cologne Carnival, as well as those in Mainz and Düsseldorf, are the largest and most famous. Other cities have their own, often less well-known celebrations, parades, and parties, such as  Rhein, Speyer, Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Stuttgart, Augsburg, Munich, and Nuremberg. On Carnival Thursday (called "Old Women Day" or "The Women's Day" in commemoration of an 1824 revolt by washer-women), women storm city halls, cut men's ties, and are allowed to kiss any passing man. The Fasching parades and floats make fun of individual politicians and other public figures. Many speeches do the same.

"Swabian-Alemannic" Carnival (Schwäbische Fastnacht)

The "Swabian-Alemannic" Carnival, known as Schwäbische Fastnacht, takes place in Baden, Swabia, the Allgäu, Alsace, and Vorarlberg(western Austria). During the pagan era, it represented the time of year when the reign of the grim winter spirits is over, and these spirits are hunted and expelled. It then adapted to Catholicism. The first official record of Karneval, Fasching or Fastnacht in Germany dates to 1296.

Swiss Fasnacht

In Switzerland, Fasnacht takes place in the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, e.g. in Lucerne(Lozärner Fasnacht), but also in Protestant Basel. However, the Basler Fasnacht begins on the Monday after Ash Wednesday. Both began in the Late Middle Ages. Smaller Fasnacht festivities take place across German Switzerland, e.g. in Bern and Olten, or in the eastern part (Zurich, St. Gallen, Appenzell).


In Greece, Carnival is also known as the Apokriés (Greek: Αποκριές, "saying goodbye to meat"), or the season of the "Opening of the Triodion", so named after the liturgical book used by the church from then until Holy Week. One of the season's high points is Tsiknopempti, when celebrants enjoy roast beef dinners; the ritual is repeated the following Sunday. The following week, the last before Lent, is called Tyrinē (Greek: Τυρινή, "cheese [week]") because meat is forbidden, although dairy products are not. Lent begins on "Clean Monday", the day after "Cheese Sunday". Throughout the Carnival season, people disguise themselves as maskarádes ("masqueraders") and engage in pranks and revelry.

Patras holds the largest annual Carnival in Greece; the famous Patras Carnival is a three-day spectacle replete with concerts, balles masqués, parading troupes, a treasure hunt, and many events for children. The grand parade of masked troupes and floats is held at noon on Tyrine Sunday, and culminates in the ceremonial burning of the effigy of King Carnival at the Patras harbour.

Other regions host festivities of smaller extent, focused on the reenactment of traditional carnevalic customs, such as Tyrnavos (Thessaly), Kozani (Western Macedonia), Rethymno (Crete), and in Xanthi (Eastern Macedonia and Thrace). Tyrnavos holds an annual Phallus festival, a traditional "phallkloric" event  in which giant, gaudily painted effigies of phalluses made of papier-mâché are paraded, and which women are asked to touch or kiss. Their reward for so doing is a shot of the famous local tsipouro alcohol spirit.

Every year, from 1 to 8 January, mostly in regions of Western Macedonia, Carnival festivals erupt. The best known is the Kastorian Carnival or "Ragoutsaria" (Gr. "Ραγκουτσάρια") [tags: Kastoria, Kastorian Carnival, Ragoutsaria, Ραγκουτσαρια, Καστοριά]. It takes place from 6 to 8 January with mass participation serenaded by brass bands, pipises, and Macedonian and grand casa drums. It is an ancient celebration of nature's rebirth (festivals for Dionysus (Dionysia) and Kronos(Saturnalia)), which ends the third day in a dance in the medieval square Ntoltso where the bands play at the same time.


In Mohács, Hungary, the Busójárás is a celebration held at the end of the Carnival season. It involves locals dressing 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 the Ottomans.


The most famous Carnivals of Italy are held in Venice, Viareggio, and Ivrea.

The Carnival in Venice was first recorded in 1268. Its subversive nature is reflected in Italy's many laws over the centuries attempting to restrict celebrations and the wearing of masks. Carnival celebrations in Venice were halted after the city fell under Austrian control in 1798, but were revived in the late 20th century.

The month-long Carnival of Viareggio is characterized mainly by its parade of floats and masks caricaturing popular figures. In 2001, the town built a new "Carnival citadel" dedicated to Carnival preparations and entertainment.

The Carnival of Ivrea is famous for its "Battle of the Oranges" fought with fruit between the people on foot and the troops of the tyrant on carts, to remember the wars of the Middle Ages.

In the most part of the Archdiocese of Milan, the Carnival lasts four more days, ending on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, because of the Ambrosian Rite.


Užgavėnės is a Lithuanian festival that takes place on Ash Wednesday. Its name in English means "the time before Lent". The celebration corresponds to Carnival holiday traditions.

Užgavėnės begins on the night before Ash Wednesday, when an effigy of winter (usually named Morė) is burnt. A major element symbolizes the defeat of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a staged battle between Lašininis ("porky") personifying winter and Kanapinis ("hempen man") personifying spring. Devils, witches, goats, the grim reaper, and other joyful and frightening characters appear in costumes during the celebrations.

Eating pancakes is an important part of the celebration.


In Luxembourg, the pre-Lenten holiday season is known as Fuesend. Throughout the Grand-Duchy, parades and parties are held.

Pétange is the home of the Grand-Duchy's largest pre-Lenten Karneval celebration. Annually hosting a cavalcade with roughly 1,200 participants and thousand of celebrants, the official name is Karneval Gemeng Péiteng or "Kagepe" (the initials in Luxembourgish are pronounced "Ka", "Ge" and "Pe").

The town of Remich holds a three-day-long celebration, notable for two special events in addition to its parades. The first is the Stréimännchen, which is the burning of a male effigy from the Remich Bridge that crosses the Moselle River separating the Grand Duchy from Germany. The Stréimännchen symbolizes the burning away of winter. The other special event at the Remich Fuesend celebrations is the Buergbrennen or bonfire that closes the celebration.

Like Remich, the town of Esch-sur-Alzette holds a three-day celebration. Other major Fuesend parades in Luxembourg are held in the towns of Diekirch and Differdange.


Carnival in Malta (Maltese: il-Karnival ta' Malta) was introduced to the islands by Grand Master Piero de Ponte in 1535. It is held during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, and typically includes masked balls, fancy dresses, and grotesque mask competitions, lavish late-night parties, a colourful, ticker-tape parade of allegorical floats presided over by King Carnival (Maltese: ir-Re tal-Karnival), marching bands, and costumed revellers.

The largest celebration takes place in and around the capital city of Valletta and Floriana; several more "spontaneous" Carnivals take place in more remote areas. The Nadur Carnival is notable for its darker themes. In 2005, the Nadur Carnival hosted the largest-ever gathering of international Carnival organizers for the FECC's global summit.

Traditional dances include the parata, a lighthearted re-enactment of the 1565 victory of the Knights Hospitaller over the Turks, and an 18th-century court dance known as il-Maltija. Carnival food includes perlini (multi-coloured, sugar-coated almonds) and the prinjolata, which is a towering assembly of sponge cake, biscuits, almonds, and citrus fruits, topped with cream and pine nuts.


Carnival in the Netherlands is called Carnaval, Vastenavond ("Eve of Lent") or, in Limburgish, Vastelaovend(j), and is mostly celebrated in traditionally Catholic regions, particularly in the southern provinces of North Brabant and Limburg. While Dutch Carnaval is officially celebrated on the Sunday through Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, since the 1970s the feast has gradually started earlier and generally includes now the preceding weekend. Although traditions vary from town to town, Dutch carnaval usually includes a parade, a "Prince Carnival" plus cortège ("Council of 11", sometimes with a Jester or Adjutant), sometimes also the handing over by the mayor of the symbolic keys of the town to Prince Carnival, the burning or burial of a symbolic figure, a peasant wedding (boerenbruiloft), and eating herring (haring happen) on Ash Wednesday.

Two main variants can be distinguished: the Rhineland carnaval, found in the province of Limburg, and the Bourgondische carnaval, found mainly in North Brabant. Maastricht, Limburg's capital, holds a street carnaval that features elaborate costumes.

The first known documentation dates from the late 8th century (Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum), but Carnaval was already mentioned during the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and by Caesarius of Arles (470-542) around 500 CE. In the Netherlands itself, the first documentation is found in 1383 in 's-Hertogenbosch. The oldest-known images of Dutch Carnaval festivities date from 1485, also in 's-Hertogenbosch.

Normal daily life comes to a stop for about a week in the southern part of the Netherlands during the carnival, with roads temporary blocked and many local businesses closed for the week as a result of employees who are en masse taking the days off during and the day after the carnival.


The Polish Carnival season includes Fat Thursday (Polish: Tłusty Czwartek), when pączki (doughnuts) are eaten, and Śledzik (Shrove Tuesday) or Herring Day. The Tuesday before the start of Lent is also often called Ostatki (literally "leftovers"), 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. In modern times, Carnival is increasingly seen as an excuse for intensive partying and has become more commercialized, with stores offering Carnival-season sales.


Carnival in Portugal is celebrated throughout the country, most famously in Ovar, Sesimbra, Madeira, Loulé, Nazaré, and Torres Vedras. The Carnivals in Podence and Lazarim incorporate pagan traditions such as the careto, while the Torres Vedras celebration is probably the most typical.

Although Portugal introduced Christianity and the customs related to Catholic practice to Brazil, the country has begun to adopt some aspects of Brazilian-style Carnival celebrations, in particular those of Rio de Janeiro with sumptuous parades, samba and other musical elements.


In Lazarim, a civil parish in the municipality of Lamego, celebrations follow the pagan tradition of Roman Saturnalias. It celebrates by burning colorful effigies and dressing in home-made costumes. Locally made wooden masks are worn. The masks are effigies of men and women with horns, but both roles are performed by men. They are distinguished by their clothes, which caricature attributes of both men and women.

The Lazarim Carnival cycle encompasses two periods, the first starting on the fifth Sunday before Fat Sunday. Masked figures and people wearing large sculpted heads walk through the town. The locals feast on meats, above all pork. The second cycle, held on Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday, incorporates the tradition of the Compadres and Comadres, with men and women displaying light-hearted authority over the other.

Over the five weeks, men prepare large masked heads and women raise funds to pay for two mannequins that will be sacrificed in a public bonfire. This is a key event and is unique to Portugal. During the bonfire, a girl reads the Compadre's will and a boy reads the Comadre's will. The executors of the will are named, a donkey is symbolically distributed to both female and male "heirs", and then there is the final reckoning in which the Entrudo, or Carnival doll, is burned.


On the islands of the Azores, local clubs and Carnival groups create colorful and creative costumes that jab at politics or culture.

On São Miguel Island, Carnival features street vendors selling fried dough, called a malassada. The festival on the biggest island starts off with a black tie grand ball, followed by Latin music at Coliseu Micaelense. A children's parade fills the streets of Ponta Delgada with children from each school district in costume. A massive parade continues past midnight, ending in fireworks.

The event includes theatre performances and dances. In the "Danças de Entrudo", hundreds of people follow the dancers around the island. Throughout the show the dancers act out scenes from daily life. The "Dances de Carnival" are allegorical and comedic tales acted out in the streets. The largest is in Angra do Heroísmo, with more than 30 groups performing. More Portuguese-language theatrical performances occur there than anywhere else.

Festivities end on Ash Wednesday, when locals sit down for the "Batatada" or potato feast, in which the main dish is salted cod with potatoes, eggs, mint, bread and wine. Residents then return to the streets for the burning of the "Carnival clown", ending the season.


On the island of Madeira, the island's capital, Funchal, wakes up on the Friday before Ash Wednesday to the sound of brass bands and Carnival parades throughout downtown. Festivities continue with concerts and shows in the Praça do Município for five consecutive days. The main Carnival street parade takes place on Saturday evening, with thousands of samba dancers filling the streets. The traditional street event takes place on Tuesday, featuring daring caricatures.

Arguably, Brazil's Carnival could be traced to the period of the Portuguese Age of Discoveries when their caravels passed regularly through Madeira, a territory that emphatically celebrated Carnival.

Other regions

In Estarreja, in the Central region of Portugal, the town's first references to Carnival were in the 14th century, with "Flower Battles", richly decorated floats that paraded through the streets. At the beginning of the twentieth century, these festivities ended with the deaths of its main promoters, only to reappear again in the 1960s to become one of many important Carnival festivals in Portugal.

In the Northern region of Podence, children appear from Sunday to Tuesday with tin masks and colorful multilayered costumes made from red, green and yellow wool. In the Central Portugal towns of Nelas and Canas de Senhorim, Carnival is an important tourist event. Nelas and Canas de Senhorim host four festive parades that offer colorful and creative costumes: Bairro da Igreja and Cimo do Povo in Nelas and do Paço and do Rossio in Canas de Senhorim.

Carnival in the town of Ovar, near Porto, began in 1952 and is the region's largest festivity, representing a large investment and the most important touristic event to the city. It is known for its creative designs, displayed in the Carnival Parade, which features troupes with themed costumes and music, ranging from the traditional to pop culture. Along with the Carnival Parade, there are five nights of partying, finishing with the famous 'Magical night' where people come from all over the country, mostly with their handmade costumes, only to have fun with the locals.

In Lisbon, Carnival offers parades, dances and festivities featuring stars from Portugal and Brazil. The Loures Carnival celebrates the country's folk traditions, including the enterro do bacalhau or burial of the cod, which marks the end of Carnival and the festivities.

North of Lisbon is the famous Torres Vedras Carnival, described as the "most Portuguese in Portugal". The celebration highlight is a parade of creatively decorated streetcars that satirize society and politics.

Other Central Portugal towns, such as Fátima and Leiria, offer colorful, family-friendly celebrations. In these towns, everyone dresses up as if it were Halloween. Children and adults wear masks.

In the Algarve region, several resort towns offer Carnival parades. Besides the themed floats and cars, the festivities include "samba" groups, bands, dances, and music.

Republic of Macedonia

The most popular Carnivals in Macedonia are in Vevčani and Strumica.

The Vevčani Carnival (Macedonian: Вевчански Kарневал, translated Vevchanski Karneval) has been held for over 1,400 years, and takes place on 13 and 14 January (New Year's Eve and New Year's Day by the old calendar). The village becomes a live theatre where costumed actors improvise on the streets in roles such as the traditional "August the Stupid".

The Strumica Carnival (Macedonian: Струмички Карневал, translated Strumichki Karneval) has been held since at least 1670, when the Turkish author Evlija Chelebija wrote while staying there, "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." The Carnival took an organized form in 1991; in 1994, Strumica became a member of FECC and in 1998 hosted the XVIII International Congress of Carnival Cities. The Strumica Carnival opens on a Saturday night at a masked ball where the Prince and Princess are chosen; the main Carnival night is on Tuesday, when masked participants (including groups from abroad) compete in various subjects. As of 2000, the Festival of Caricatures and Aphorisms has been held as part of Strumica's Carnival celebrations.


Maslenitsa (Масленица, also called "Pancake Week" or "Cheese Week") is a Russian folk holiday that incorporates some pagan traditions. It is celebrated during the last week before Lent. The essential element is bliny, Russian pancakes, popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods allowed that week by the Orthodox traditions: butter, eggs, and milk. (In the tradition of Orthodox Lent, the consumption of meat ceases one week before that of milk and eggs.)

Maslenitsa also includes masquerades, snowball fights, sledding, swinging on swings, and sleigh rides. The mascot is a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma. The celebration culminates on Sunday evening, when Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire.


In Slovakia, the Fašiangy (fašiang, fašangy) takes place from Three Kings Day (Traja králi) until the midnight before 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 ceases for Lent.


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 festival is held in Ptuj (see: Kurentovanje). Its special feature are the Kurents themselves, magical creatures from another world, who visit major events throughout the country, trying to banish the winter and announce spring's arrival, fertility, and new life with 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.

The Cerknica Carnival is heralded by a figure called "Poganjič" carrying a whip. In the procession, organised by the "Pust society", a monstrous witch named Uršula is driven from the mountain 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. Cerkno and its surrounding area are known for the Laufarji, Carnival figures with artistically carved wooden masks.

The Maškare 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 Kurent), 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.


Arguably the most famous Carnivals in Spain are Santa Cruz, Las Palmas, Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Tarragona, Águilas, Solsona, Cádiz, Badajoz, Bielsa (an ancestral Carnival celebration), Plan, San Juan de Plan, Laza, Verín, Viana, and Xinzo de Limia.

One of the oldest pre-Indo-European carnival in Europe takes place in Ituren and Zubieta in Navarre in late January/early February. The carnival symbolises the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil; light and darkness, winter and spring.


In Cádiz, 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 prepare for the whole year. The Choirs (coros) are wider groups that go on open carts through the streets singing with an orchestra of guitars and lutes. Their signature piece is the "Carnival Tango", alternating comical and serious repertory. The comparsas are the serious counterpart of the chirigota in Cádiz, and the poetic lyrics and the criticism are their main ingredients. They have a more elaborated polyphony that is easily recognizable by the typical countertenor voice.

Canary Islands

The Santa Cruz Carnival is, 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. Every February, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the largest of the Canary Islands, hosts the event, attracting around a million people.

In 1980, it was declared a Festival Tourist International Interest. In 1987, Cuban singer Celia Cruz with orchestra Billo's Caracas Boys performed at the "Carnival Chicharrero", attended by 250,000 people. This was registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest gathering of people in an outdoor plaza to attend a concert, a record she holds today.

The Carnival of Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) has a drag queen's gala where a jury chooses a winner.


In Catalonia, people dress in masks and costume (often in themed groups) and organize a week-long series of parties, pranks, outlandish activities such as bed races, street dramas satirizing public figures, and raucous processions to welcome the arrival of Sa Majestat el Rei Carnestoltes ("His Majesty King Carnival"), known by various titles, including el Rei dels poca-soltes ("King of the Crackpots"), Princep etern de Cornudella ("Eternal Prince of Cuckoldry"), Duc de ximples i corrumputs ("Duke of Fools and the Corrupt"), Marquès de la bona mamella ("Marquis of the lovely breast"), Comte de tots els barruts ("Count of the Insolent"), Baró de les Calaverades ("Baron of Nocturnal Debaucheries"), and Senyor de l'alt Plàtan florit, dels barraquers i gamberrades i artista d'honor dalt del llit ("Lord of the Tall Banana in Bloom, of the Voyeurs and Punks and the Artist of Honor upon the Bed").

The King presides over a period of misrule in which conventional social rules may be broken and reckless behavior is encouraged. Festivities are held in the open air, beginning with a cercavila, a ritual procession throughout the town to call everyone to attend. Rues of masked revelers dance alongside. On Thursday, Dijous Gras (Fat Thursday) is celebrated, also called 'omelette day' (el dia de la truita), on which coques (de llardons, butifarra d'ou, butifarra), and omelettes are eaten. The festivities end on Ash Wednesday with elaborate funeral rituals marking the death of King Carnival, who is typically burned on a pyre in what is called the "burial of the sardine" (enterrament de la sardina), or, in Vilanova, as l'enterro.

The Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú has a documented history from 1790 and is one of the richest in the variety of its acts and rituals. It adopts an ancient style in which satire, the grotesque body  (particularly cross-dressing and displays of exaggerated bellies, noses, and phalli) and above all, active participation are valued over glamorous, media-friendly spectacles that Vilanovins mock as "thighs and feathers". It is best known for Les Comparses (held on Sunday), a tumultuous dance in which 12,000 or more dancers organized into rival groups throw 75 tons of hard candies at one other. The women protect their faces with Mantons de Manila (Manila shawls), but eye-patches and slings for broken arms are common the following week. Vilanovins organize an elaborate ritual for the arrival of King Carnival called l'Arrivo that changes every year. It includes a raucous procession of floats and dancers lampooning current events or public figures and a bitingly satiric sermon (el sermo) delivered by the King himself. On Dijous Gras, Vilanovin children are excused from school to participate in the Merengada, a day-long scene of eating and fighting with sticky, sweet meringue.

Adults have a meringue battle at midnight at the historic Plaça de les Cols in the mysterious sortida del Moixo Foguer (the outing of Little-Bird-Bonfire), accompanied by the Xerraire (jabberer) who insults the crowd. In the King's procession, he and his concubines scandalize the town with their sexual behavior. A correfoc(fire run) or Devil's dance (ball de diables), features dancing youth amid the sparks and explosions of the ritual crew of devils. Other items includes bed races in the streets, the debauched Nit dels Mascarots, karaoke sausage roasts, xatonades, the children's party, Vidalet, the last night of revelry, Vidalot, the talking-dance of the Mismatched Couples (Ball de Malcasats) and the children's King Caramel whose massive belly, long nose and sausage-like hair hint at his insatiable appetites.

For the King's funeral, people dress in elaborate mourning costume, many of them cross-dressing men who carry bouquets of phallic vegetables. In the funeral house, the body of the King is surrounded by an honor guard and weeping concubines, crying over the loss of sexual pleasure brought about by his death. The King's body is carried to the Plaça de la Vila where a satiric eulogy is delivered while the townspeople eat salty grilled sardines with bread and wine, suggesting the symbolic cannibalism of the communion ritual. Finally, amid rockets and explosions, the King's body is burned in a massive pyre.

Carnaval de Solsona takes place in Solsona, Lleida. It is one of the longest; free events in the streets and nightly concerts run for more than a week. The Carnival is known for a legend that explains how a donkey was hung at the tower bell − because the animal wanted to eat grass that grew on the top of the tower. To celebrate this legend, locals hang a stuffed donkey at the tower that "pisses" above the excited crowd using a water pump. This event is the most important and takes place on Saturday night. For this reason, the inhabitants are called matarrucs ("donkey killers").

"Comparses" groups organize free activities. These groups of friends create and personalize a uniformed suit to wear during the festivities.

In Sitges, special feasts include xatonades (xatóis a traditional local salad of the Penedès coast) 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 draw more than 2,500 participants.

Tarragona has one of the region's most complete ritual sequences. The events start with the building of a huge barrel and ends with its burning with the effigies of the King and Queen. On Saturday, the main parade takes place with 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.


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