Carnival Is a Global Party, But Why?

Courtesy of The Economist

By DJ Nelson, Staff Writer

Carnival is a festival held around the world, but do we really understand what the partying is all about?

Courtesy of St Matthew’s Episcopal Church

It all started in ancient Egypt as a pagan tradition to celebrate the coming of Spring. Then, in 332 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and the festival was adopted by the ancient Greeks. Soon thereafter, the ancient Roman’s acculturated and changed it to be a Christian celebration, which they called Carnevale, occurring prior to Lent. Lent is a fasting period for 40 days and 40 nights, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. In Latin, carne refers to meat, and vale means farewell. Thus, the ancient Roman’s, in giving the celebration the name Carnevale, were saying goodbye to meat. The days of feasting during Carnevale, follow the Catholic calendar, ending on Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, prior to the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday.

Carnival is celebrated in many countries around the world. The spread of Christianity and colonization made this so, but had it not been for the eighteenth century Italians’ indulgences, and turning Carnevale into a fancy and grand feasting event, it may not have been so well adopted.

Courtesy of Euclid Public Library

Carnival from country to country is still inherently different. The characteristics of carnival in Italy are not the same as Brazil’s. The celebration has its origins, but once it started to cross borders and travel overseas, it was subject to influences from the indigenous people, European colonizers, and African slaves. Brazil’s Carnival exemplifies this mixed heritage in their celebration. In the United States, the city of New Orleans calls the celebration Mardi Gras, which is French for Fat Tuesday. Canada’s carnival is held as a winter festival and is the third largest carnival celebration in the world. Regardless of the city or country, carnival celebrations typically include costumes, parades, masks, street parties with music and dancing, and other entertainment.

Today, carnival is celebrated less as a religious feast, and more as an annual party. The millions of people that do celebrate are just there for a good time.

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