Carnival (Karneval, Carnivale, Carnevale and Carnaval in German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish languages) is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during January and February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, masque and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life.
Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove TuesdayBrazilian Carnaval
is one of the best known celebrations today, but many cities and
regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events.
These include the Carnevale of Venice, Italy, the German Rhineland carnivals, centering on the Cologne carnival; the carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands; of Torres Vedras, Portugal; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rijeka, Croatia; Barranquilla, Colombia; Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In the United States, the famous Mardi GrasMobile, Alabama, date back to French and Spanish colonial times. events. The celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, and
Cigarron is a traditional character of north-west of Spain.
Traditionally, in Christianity, carnival marked the last opportunity to celebrate and to use up special foods before Lent. The Lenten period of the Church calendar, being the six weeks directly before Easter,
was marked by fasting and other pious or penetential practices.
Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held,
and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fats
and sugar. The forty days of Lent, recalling the biblical account of
the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an
annual time of turning to God and religious discipline. In the days
before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The
consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community
is thought to be the origin of Carnival.
While it forms an integral part of the Christian calendar, particularly in Catholic regions, some carnival traditions may date back to pre-Christian times. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia may possibly have been absorbed into the Italian Carnival. 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 celebrations, carnival was also a manifestation
of medieval folk culture. Many local carnival customs are based on
local pre-Christian rituals, for example the elaborate rites involving
masked figures in the Swabian-Alemannic carnival.
Some of the most well-known traditions, including carnival parades and masquerading, were first recorded in medieval Italy. The carnival of Venice
was for a long time the most famous carnival. From Italy, carnival
traditions spread to the Catholic nations of Spain, Portugal, and
France. From France, they spread to the Rhineland of Germany, and to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal, they spread with Catholic colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America.
Other areas have developed their own traditions. Carnaval Binche is being celebrated along the east coast of Australia,
where the traditional foods are carrots and apples. In the United
Kingdom, West Indian immigrants brought with them the traditions of Caribbean Carnival, however the Carnivals now celebrated at Notting Hill, London; Leeds,
Yorkshire, and other places have become divorced from their cycle in
the religious year, becoming purely secular events, that take place in
the summer months.
Length and individual holidays
While the starting day of Carnival varies, the festival usually builds up to a crescendo in the week before lent, ending on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In the Ambrosian rite of Milan
(Italy), the carnival ends on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday. In
areas in which people practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Carnival
ends on the Sunday seven weeks before Easter, since in Eastern
tradition Lent begins on Clean Monday.
Most commonly the season begins on Septuagesima, the first Sunday before Ash Wednesday. In some places it starts as early as Twelfth Night
(January 6) or even in November. The most important celebrations are
generally concentrated during the last days of the season before Ash
The origin of the name "carnival" is disputed. According to one theory, it comes from the Greek prefix carn ("Meat eater"),Apollo. Other sources, however, suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent. Another theory states that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale,
which means "farewell to meat", signifying that those were the last
days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. Yet another
translation depicts carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh", a
phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrations that encourage letting
go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature
of the festival.
referring to a cart in a religious parade, such as a cart in a
religious procession at the annual festivities in honor of the god
In England, the season immediately before Lent was called Shrovetide. It was a time for confessing sins (shriving) with fewer festivities than the Continental Carnivals. Shrove Tuesday is celebrated as Pancake Day, but apart from the serving of pancakes and occasional pancake races and football matches (see Royal Shrovetide Football), little else of the Lent-related Shrovetide survived the English Reformation. One of the few, if not the only, Shrovetide carnivals in the UK takes places in Cowes and East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This is the first carnival of the year on the island, and is the start of a long and busy carnival calendar.
The traditional English carnivals take place later in the year, such as the Leeds Carnival in August and the West Country CarnivalGuy Fawkes Night. London now has several major carnivals, such as the Notting Hill Carnival, Nigerian Carnival UK and the Carnaval Del Pueblo, all held in August. Luton Carnival, begun 1976, is in May. St Pauls carnival, an Afrikan Caribbean Carnival in its 41st year (as of 2008), usually takes place on the first Saturday of July in Bristol. in November, associated with
Shrove Tuesday is a term used in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australiafor the day preceding the first day of the Christian season of fasting and prayer called Lent.
The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of Confession and doing penance.
Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving that English
Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution
immediately before Lent begins. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of
"shrovetide", somewhat analogous to the Carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe.
The term "Shrove Tuesday" is no longer widely known in the United
States outside of Liturgical Traditions, such as the Lutheran,
Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches. Mardi Gras" is much more widely-used. Because of the increase in many immigrant populations and traditions since the 19th century "
The festival is widely associated with the eating of foods such as pancakes, and often known simply as Pancake Day,
originally because these used up ingredients such as fat and eggs, the
consumption of which was traditionally restricted during Lent.
In countries of the Carnival tradition, the day before Ash Wednesday is known either as Fat Tuesday (Portuguese, Terça-feira Gorda; French, Mardi Gras; Italian, Martedì Grasso; Swedish, Fettisdagen; Estonian, Vastlapäev), or the "Tuesday of Carnival"Martes de Carnaval; Portuguese, Terça-feira de Carnaval; German, Faschingsdienstag). This is in reference to eating special foods before the fasting season of Lent. (Spanish,
For German American populations, such as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it is known as Fastnacht Day (also spelled Fasnacht, Fausnacht, Fauschnaut, or Fosnacht). The Fastnacht is made from fried potato dough and served with dark corn syrup. In John Updike's novel Rabbit Run,
the main character remembers a Fosnacht Day tradition where the last
person to rise would be teased by the other family members and called a
In Hawaii, this day is also known as Malasada Day,
which dates back to the days of the sugar plantations of the 1800s. The
occupying Portuguese used up their butter and sugar prior to Lent by
making large batches of malasada (doughnuts).
In Iceland the day is known as Sprengidagur ("Bursting Day") and is marked by the eating of salt meat and peas.
In Lithuania the day is called Užgavėnės. People eat pancakes (blynai) and Lithuanian-style doughnuts called spurgos.
In heavily Polish areas of the United States, such as Chicago and the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki eating contests, music and Polish food.
In Sweden, the day is marked by eating a traditional pastry, called semla or fastlagsbulle, a sweet bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream.
Originally, the pastry was only eaten on this day sometimes served in a
bowl of hot milk. Eventually the tradition evolved to eat the bun on
every Tuesday leading up to Easter, as after the Reformation, the
Protestant Swedes no longer observed a strict Lent. Today, semlas are
available in shops and bakeries every day from shortly after Christmas
until Easter. The semla is now often eaten as a regular pastry, without
the hot milk. The semla is also traditional in Finland but they are usually filled with jam instead of almond paste.
In Poland and areas with large Polish American, Christian populations (such as Chicago), it is known as Tłusty CzwartekFat Thursday) and celebrated on the Thursday before Lent. (literally:
In Poland, pączki and faworki are traditionally eaten on Fat Thursday (Polish: Tłusty czwartek), i.e. the one before Shrove Tuesday. However, in areas of Detroit, Michigan with large Polish communities, they are eaten on "Fat Tuesday" due to Frenchherring with vodka (Polish: wódka)
that day. Moreover in western Poland (Posen/Poznan area) both Fat
Thursday and Shrove Tuesday known as 'Podkoziolek' are celebrated.
influence. Shrove Tuesday itself is sometimes referred to as "śledzik"
("little herring") and it is customary to have some pickled
Shrove Tuesday Traditions
Pancakes with strawberry syrup and blackcurrants.
Among Anglicans, Lutherans and some other Protestant denominations, and among cultures in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, this day is also known as Pancake Tuesday, as it is customary to eat pancakes on this day.
Pancakes and doughnuts are associated with the day preceding Lent
because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk,
and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The
emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give
pleasure: In many cultures, this means no meat, dairy, or eggs.
Another holiday associated with pancakes (or in this case crêpes) is a French and Belgian festival called Chandeleur. Held on February 2 each year, this holiday is associated with the presentation of Jesus Christ in the temple. The name is derived from the word chandelle or candle, as candles are lit for this holiday. The French may also eat crêpes for mi-Careme and Mardi Gras. Similar to Chandeleur is Candlemas, which is celebrated by Anglican communities.
Another traditional food for this season is a sweet fried dumpling called cenci,
usually served in the shape of a loose knot (a 5cm wide, 20cm long
strip of dough one extremity of which is passed through a slit in the
middle). In New Orleans and French-speaking communities, another
traditional food is king cake. Traditionally the community king for Mardi Gras was found by the man who ate a bean baked in the cake.
A Festy cock
is a Scottish dish made of a ball of finely ground meal, wetted until
patted and rolled into a pancake shape, then roasted in the hot ashes
from a mill kiln. This was a dish to be eaten at Shrovetide.
In Estonia (Vastlapäev) and Finland (Laskiainen),
this day is associated with hopes for the coming year. On this day,
families go sledding and eat split pea and ham soup. A toy is made from
the ham bone by tying the bone to a string and spinning it around to
make a whistling noise. Finns also share the tradition of the marzipan
and cream filled pastry with Swedes, although often the marzipan is
replaced with strawberry jam. Finnish name for it is laskiaispulla. It
is most often accompanied with hot red or black currant drink or
sometimes, for adults, glögi - a heated mulled wine. In Germany, Austria and Slovenia people traditionally eat rich pastries such as Berliner, krapfen or krof.
Many towns throughout England held traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('Mob football') games dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out with the passing of the Highway Act 1835,
which banned the playing of football on public highways. A number of
towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day
including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire, Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.
Shrove Tuesday was once known as a 'half-holiday' in England. It started at 11:00 a.m. with the signalling of a church bell.
On Pancake Day, pancake races are held in villages and towns across the
United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated when a
housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.