You probably are familiar with the Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, and Venice. But what about some other places that have a rich tradition but might not be as well-known? Below you will find descriptions of different carnival celebrations from all corners of the globe, along with recipes that represent these cultures. (Click on the caption of each food picture to access the recipes.) Leave us a comment below to tell us which destinations and culinary delights are your favorites and which Carnival festivities you have been to or hope to visit in the future.
Carnival celebrations are held throughout Europe, and each reflects the culture of that country or region through unique rituals, gastronomy, and celebrations.
Nice, France: In France, Carnival is called Le Carnaval or Mardi Gras, with the most famous street carnival taking place in Nice during the two weeks before Lent. One of its unique traditions is the Battle of the Flowers, where costumed participants on flower-bedecked floats throw flowers at parade spectators. Another main event is the Parada Nassarda, which features elaborate floats and animated puppets, many of which provide social commentary on current events and personalities. There is also a Parade of Lights which happens several times throughout the festival, and a finale parade which culminates in a ceremonial burning of the King and fireworks display in the Bay of Angels.
Greece: Greece’s Carnival season, known as “Apokries,” is a period which traditionally begins ten weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter and culminates on the weekend before “Clean Monday” (Kathara Deftera), the first day of Lent. One of the most famous Carnival celebrations in Greece takes place in the town of Patras. Patras’ Carnival has some unique characters such as the oath of the participants and their taking part in decorating the city. Two events mark the carnival’s start: The departure of the carnival’s train from Athens that goes through different cities up to Patras, and the official appearance of the carnival’s queen. Throughout the three weeks there are parades, parties and other events. The Apokries season ends with the burning at the stake of the King of Carnival statue and a big parade of floats and costumed groups.
Canary Islands, Spain: The largest Carnival celebration in this outpost off the coast of North Africa is held on its largest island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Throughout the month-long Carnival, the multitude of daily parades, dances, and concerts keep visitors thoroughly entertained. Their official parade, which happens Tuesday, is called “el Coso,” and, as you might have guessed, is filled with music and dancers with extravagant costumes. The end of the festivities is marked by a 24-hour party that ceremoniously ends with the burning and burial of an enormous papier-mâché sardine. This symbolizes an end to one season and a rebirth of another.
Latin American countries host some of the biggest Carnival celebrations in the world. While the biggest and the most famous of these is Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro Carnaval, other countries such as Panama, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru are not far behind.
Panama: “Los Carnavales,” as Panamanians refer to the days of Carnival, are celebrated across the country. One uniquely Panamanian Carnival tradition is the “culeco.” Large repurposed fuel trucks are used for soaking celebration attendees through the use of fire hoses that are controlled and directed by one or more people that stand on a platform that is mounted on top of the truck. The culecos are also often accompanied by reggaeton concerts. Fireworks are launched on the last carnival night, to signal the end of the carnival.
Carnival across the Caribbean in general is very well marked, with the biggest celebrations happening in Trinidad and Tobago. Expect huge parades and lots of colorful costumes alongside food such as curried chicken, fried bread sandwiches or corn soup.
Trinidad & Tobago: The two-day parade in Port of Spain is the mother of Caribbean Carnivals, inspiring variations of the celebration across the West Indies and other nations, such as Crop Over in Barbados, and Caribana in Toronto. Carnival in the Trinidad and Tobago stemmed from Calypso music which was a genre born out of slavery. The spirit of liberation expanded and evolved into the modern-day Carnival, which is now filled with booming soca music. The main events of the celebration officially begin on the Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, when masqueraders and other revelers dance their way throughout the parade.
Aruba: Aruba’s biggest celebration is a month-long affair consisting of festive “jump-ups” (street parades), spectacular parades, and creative contests. Music and flamboyant costumes play a central role, from the Queen elections to the Grand Parade. Street parades continue in various districts throughout the month, with brass band, steel drum and marching tunes. On the evening before Lent, Carnival ends with the symbolic burning of King Momo.
Carnival in Goa, also called “Carnaval”, “Intruz”, “Entrado”, or “Viva Carnival,” refers to the festival of carnival, in the Indian state of Goa. In India, Carnival has been celebrated in the state of Goa since the 18th century, and is one of their most famous celebrations. The colorful 4-day festival, a vestige of the state’s Portuguese rulers of the past, includes float parades, music, dance and culinary delights. Over the decades, the exuberant celebration has been an eagerly awaited annual event showcasing Goa’s vibrant culture.
Believe it or not, these are just a few of the celebrations that happen in more than 50 countries around the world. Each country, and even different regions within these countries, have their own Carnival traditions that are unique to their customs, and they provide an invaluable insight into the cultures of each location. Have you been to any of these celebrations? Which one most intrigues you? What other Carnival traditions in other countries can you tell us about? Comment below!
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