Carnaval Celebrations Are a Phenomenon Around the World

I read an article in the Sunday Inquirer about a group in Binche, Belgium that was similar to the Mummer's in Philadelphia.  This group was dressed in similar costumes and featured a diverse age group among the participants.  I thought that the impact of the Mummers was felt around the world.  I was shocked as I was researching the Carnaval phenomenon when I found out that this group was celebrating the Carnaval in Belgium.  We had a mini-Carnaval celebration on Fat Tuesday that ended in arrests and debauchery on South Street a few years ago.  It shows that Pennsylvania is not a fertile ground for this type of celebration.

A similar theme world wide is that Carnaval, celebrated on Fat Tuesday, is a time for feasting before the 40 days of Lent.  It seems like this is a celebration for Christian cultures because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.  The intensity of some of the celebrations would indicate that this celebration also provides a cultural release for many of the participants.  I want to cite a few and then be amazed at what a Google search will expose for me.

The Battle of Oranges is a Festival in the Northern Italian city of Ivrea.  This celebration includes a tradition of throwing oranges between organized groups.  The oranges seem to commemorate the city's fight against a tyrant from the Rainier family during the 12th century.  The citizens battle and set large bonfires.  It ends on the night of Shrove Tuesday with a solemn funeral.  It is a tradition that has lasted longer than the life of the United States.  It is interesting to see the longevity of this celebration and its meaning to this city.
The Nice Carnival is one of the world's major carnaval events.  It is held annually in February in Nice, France.  The earliest records establish its existence in 1294 when the Count of Provence, Charles Anjou, spent the joyous days of Carnaval partying and drinking.  The event attracts over one million visitors and spans two weeks.  It ends on Mardi Gras.  Mardi Gras is actually French for Fat Tuesday.  We have a restaurant here called Fat Tuesday and it is in keeping with this world wide celebration.

An American phenomenon to celebrate Mardi Gras is called a Krewe.  A Krewe is any group or organization of revelers who band together to host a Mardi Gras ball.  Southwestern Louisiana is home to more than 50 krewes.  The celebration in New Orleans just took place this week but it was hampered by the coldest weather since 1989.  Some of the Krewes include the Krew of Athena, the Krewe de L'Ecore and the Krewe Chetu Jadi.  New Orleans is known as a party city.  I would think that it needs the Mardi Gras celebration to continue its healing from Hurricane Katrina.

In Trinidad & Tobago, the Carnaval Celebration is one of the focal points of the entire year.  A Wikipedia excerpt follows:

The Mas tradition started in the late 18th century with French plantation owners from Martinique organizing masquerades (mas) and balls before enduring the fasting of Lent. Indentured laborers and slaves copied and lampooned their masters, and once set free from forced labor, their frustra­tions found a platform in clever calypso lyrics mocking their former masters, and then their political leaders.Carnival had arrived with the French, the slaves, who could not take part in Carnival, formed their own, parallel celebration called Canboulay.

A major award associated with the Carnaval celebration is to be named the Calypso Monarch.  An individual can win a car and other endorsements.  I have wanted to visit this island since watching a Food Channel special on the fried fish and conch on the island.  The Carnaval celebration might be further incentive to travel there.  Once my budget agrees with my intent, I am off.

I am impressed at the variety of places in which Carnaval is celebrated.  I am also impressed as to how most of the celebrations end before Ash Wednesday.  As this holiday was celebrated yesterday, I guess the parties have subsided and the planning is full on for next year.  For the celebrations that have lasted centuries, I understand the importance to the cultural fiber of those communities.  As most of these cxommunities now await the Resurrection of Christ, I wish them a Blessed Lenten Season.

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