The origin of carnival is attributed to three different civilizations, the Sumerian people, the Old Rome and the Middle Age. Nevertheless, in today’s version of carnival, the constants throughout the world are color, music, dance, creative masks, originality and satire. In the Middle Age, it was about letting go of inhibition before Lent, in the Old Rome it took place to honor the god Saturn and the Sumerian people believed it to be a rite for fertility of the lands. Either way, it marked the ending of winter.
Most of the popular carnivals happen around the same time and it is an attractive season full of parties, parades and fun, so travelers from all around the globe seek to visit and join these beautiful and huge celebrations. However, there are certain carnivals that stand out, here are the top 10 destinations for the carnival season.
- Carnival of Rio de Janeiro
- Carnival of Venice, Italy
- Carnival of “La Santa Cruz de Tenerife”, Spain
- Carnival of Barranquilla, Colombia
- Carnival of Cologne, Germany
- Carnival of Cadiz, Spain
- Carnival of Notting Hill, UK
- Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA
- Carnival of Oruro, Bolivia
- Carnival of Nice, France
Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
The biggest and most spectacular carnival in the world. 4 days of partying and dancing without a break, Rio de Janeiro’s most famous carnival activity is the Parade of the Samba schools where you can see attractive costumes and cars, as well as the incredible dancers. It is celebrated 40 days before Easter and it is internationally recognized by the colorful and ornamented dresses.
Carnival of Venice, Italy
An elegant and sophisticated 10 day party with classic XVII century attires and venetian masks. With a costume parade at the Piazza di San Marcos and a procession of gondolas and boats through the biggest canals in the city. It is celebrated from the end of January to mid February. The first Sunday of the celebration there is a tradition to send a metallic pigeon from the bell tower at San Marco to the Ducal Palace, it is called “The Flight of the Angel”.
Carnival of la Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
The Carnival of Tenerife, goes back to the Middle Age, but it had its climax during the Renaissance. In Spain, it has been a form of enjoying absolute leeway before the strict Lent. However, the dances and masks were first introduced during the kingdom of Charles the II, leaving the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday as the most important day of carnival. In Tenerife, specifically a lot of murga and comparsa groups present their music, even during the galas to choose a Carnival Queen.
Carnival of Barranquilla, Colombia
In Barranquilla, carnival is commemorated at the beginning of February to mid February with events like the Battle of Flowers, the Grand Parade and the Festival of Orchestras. Since 2003, it has been recognized as a World Heritage. It is a rampage of dancing, partying and parades with a lot of culture, color and beautiful traditional costumes.
Carnival of Cologne, Germany
Also known as “the crazy days” from the 8th of February to the 13th, Germany celebrates the Carnival of Cologne with a 6 km long parade, a lot of partying and no sleep. The bars open 24 hrs and the decorated cars throw small gifts, like candy, chocolate, caramels, etc. Similar to Oktoberfest, during these festive days a lot of beer is consumed and the festivities allow for crazy costumes and people making a fool of oneself in absolute freedom.
Carnival of Cadiz, Spain
Filling the streets with art, music and costumes, the Carnival of Cadiz presents different satires of current events in the country while giving a humorous social critique through creative “chirigotas” and “comparsas”. This carnival goes all the way back to the XVII century and goes on for about ten days.The first saturday starts the festivities with the “pregón” where an inauguration speech is made and the homage to the “Comparsista”, then the “golden masks” are awarded to people who had a big role in past carnivals. Afterwards, there are other different parties celebrated with gastronomic events and choirs.
Carnival of Notting Hill, United Kingdom
In one of the most famous and peculiar neighborhoods of London the Carnival of Notting Hill takes place. It is celebrated the last weekend of august with percussion groups, decorated cars, appetizing food stands, contests, costumes and lots of festivities.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA
Bright colors, jazz and eccentric costumes take over the streets of New Orleans the day before Ash Wednesday during Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday in the USA. This is the time where “everything is allowed without the fear of offending nobody” and everybody loses inhibition. One of the most iconic aspects of this carnival are the beaded necklaces in green, purple and gold that hold the christian symbolism for justice, faith and power.
Carnival of Oruro, Bolivia
Proclaimed in 2001 as Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the Carnival of Oruro is one of the most famous around the world because of their 4 km dancing parade that unifies the pre-Columbian legacy with christian tradition. The long route shows a wide range of folk arts in the form of masks, fabrics and embroideries during one of the traditional dances “La Diablada”. It takes place yearly forty days before Easter.
Carnival of Nice, France
The main theme of this carnival are the flowers, which is why during this event, the most popular performances are the battles of flowers. The costumes and cars are also decorated with flowers and beautiful colors that attract about a million visitors yearly. Year after year it is celebrated from the end of February to the beginning of March.
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