Originally a pagan celebration for spring, Catholics in Italy in the early 14th century started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale — “farewell to meat” in latin. In time the practice spread to France, Spain, and all the Catholic countries in Europe. Then, as the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnival.
Carnival this year falls on February 10th, 11th and 12th. It’s a great time to visit a city so we’ve put together a selection of what’s on offer throughout the world this Carnival season to get you in the mood.
Venice Carnival has to be experienced to be believed. The effort locals and visitors put in to their costumes is incredible and walking across Piazza San Marco with crowds of masked people in 17th century dress is like being transported back 300 years.
Wearing masks has always been more than just simple fun for the Venetians. The cities residents were famous for being libertines and putting on a mask in Venice meant taking forbidden liberties. ou could jibe at the powerful, gamble without being caught, take risks over love or business deals and even enter convents without being seen. A numbers of restrictive laws passed on dressing up prove how widespread the habit was.
You can find out more about Venice Carnival 2013 here.
Nice Carnival is one of the oldest carnivals in the world. From pagan and humble beginnings way back in the 13th century, it has become a glorious, annual 12-day party running from mid February to the end of the first week of March. The city of Nice erupts with parades of floats, street events and stalls and culminates with Mardi Gras on the last day. The biggest winter event on the French Riviera, it now attracts 1 million visitors each year.
You can find out more about Nice Carnival 2013 here.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans
In New Orleans, a town famous for its French Quarter and Bourbon Street, for hot Cajun and Creole cuisine and for cool Dixieland jazz, one event surpasses them all as the city’s legendary signature piece – Mardi Gras! It’s a season of revelry and romance, of madness and music, of parades and parties, of comic costuming in the streets and grandiose private masquerade balls. Mardi Gras is a time when the gaudy and the gorgeous all come together for one gigantic blowout. From the regal to the ridiculous, New Orleans Mardi Gras has it all.
You can find out more about Mardi Gras 2013 here.
Rio de Janeiro
One of the most dazzling celebrations on earth, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival season extends beyond the Saturday-to-Fat-Tuesday limits. Carnival has a pre- and a post-Carnival season, and the tourist who arrives in Rio a couple of weeks before the festival or the weekend after it will find plenty of opportunities to parade (or “go out”, in local lingo) with some of the city’s best Carnival associations.
Find out more about Rio de Janeiro Carnival 2013 here.