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Editorial NRInglês

Ready for Carnival? Learn how the whole world fell in love with the celebration of joy and extravagance

We Brazilians are no strangers to Carnival. In fact, most of us look forward to it the whole year. But even though Brazilian Carnival is really famous worldwide, this festivity is a global phenomenon, and is celebrated in over 50 countries all over the world.

Since its beginning, Carnival has been marketed as a moment of rejoicing and indulgence. It all started in Egypt, as a pagan festival in which people celebrated the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The connection between the party and Christianity arose when it reached the Roman Empire, and that was where it got its name. Carnival is made up of the words Carne (meat) and Vale (farewell). Since then, the Carnival season has become a great period of feast and extravagance before the fast of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Therefore, most of the Carnival celebrations worldwide happen in the days prior to Ash Wednesday — which may fall in February or March.

The spread of Christianity in Europe took Carnival far, and Colonization exported it. European rituals mixed with the African ones gave origin to Carnival as we know it in Brazil. This is also true in Trinidad, where the Caribbean’s biggest Carnival takes place. There, Lent was introduced by the French colonizers. The African enslaved people, who were excluded from the celebrations, created their own party, mocking the French. The soundtrack was Calypso music, a joyfully subversive melody, that aimed at sending serious messages and serving as a political tool. Nowadays, Trinidad’s Carnival is an integral part of the country’s culture and calendar.

Carnival reached the Far East as well, and it is celebrated in Goa, India, a state that was ruled by the Portuguese for almost 500 years. The party is marked by parades, flashy costumes, and dance, very similar to what happens in New Orleans, in the famous Carnival known as Mardi Gras. Back in Latin America, world-famous Carnival celebrations like Oruro, in Bolivia and Barranquilla, in Colombia, also carry in the mix an interesting and rich Indigenous influence. The Oruru party was once a celebration in honor of Pachamama (Mother Earth). An iconic moment is La Diablada (dance of the demons), which symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. There are several parades and costumes that depict this. Oruro’s Carnival is huge, the second largest in Latin America after Rio de Janeiro.

Some cities and regions in Europe still keep their Carnival celebrations, with their fancy balls and traditional masks. The Venetian Carnival is almost 900 years old. Pierrot, Columbine, and Harlequin all originated from this ancient party.

From east to west, Carnival has become a unique alchemy of its region and people, with such a rich story to tell wherever you choose to celebrate it. The flamboyant party has certainly come far, and it has a lot to communicate in its dance, rhythms, beat, and colors.

  • What is carnival: origins of the world’s biggest party
  • The Biggest and Best Carnival Celebrations Around the World | Condé Nast Traveler
  • A Guide to How Carnival Is Celebrated Around the World
  • The Oruro Carnival in Bolivia | Visit Latin America
  • Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Events & Dates
  • The subversive power of calypso music
  • Goa Carnival is back and here’s what you need to know | Times of India Travel
About author

Gabriela Viveiros holds a degree in Philosophy from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, where she also completed a Master's Degree in English Language Literature. She has been working in the field of English education and teaching for over 20 years. In recent years, she has begun to dedicate herself to the development of various content aimed at education and printed and digital teaching materials.
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