Carnival is originally a Catholic festival for Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent. In traditionally Catholic communities, it is usually celebrated with parades, street parties and live performances. The period is known as carnevale in Italian, carnaval in Portuguese and Mardi gras (fat Tuesday) in French.
Carnival has roots in Christianity, as a feast before the austerity of Lent (which usually forbids meat, alcohol and other excesses). Depending on the location, Carnival has contained elements of European and indigenous paganism, and is today mainly a secular festival.
As the time for Lent depends on Easter, Carnival is a moving holiday, usually celebrated in the second half of February. In some locations, such as the Caribbean, the Carnival can be at different dates during northern winter, as early as December in Montserrat.
While Carnivals can be enormous events, many of them are made for a domestic audience rather than foreign visitors. Outside English-speaking countries, information in English can be difficult to find.
Carnivals can draw enormous crowds, with crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing. They have been infamous for stampedes and other incidents. Use common sense in crowds.
Infectious diseases spread easily in crowds, especially when people are coming from many places where different diseases are endemic. Wearing a protective mask will reduce airborne infection and washing your hands or bathing after attending Carnival will reduce the number of pathogens on your skin. Using hand sanitizer every once in a while when attending Carnival is fine, but if you use a spray, make sure to avoid affecting the people around you.
Some Carnivals require standing for a long time, so you may want to bring a portable stool, especially if you suffer from arthritis or other conditions that make standing painful.
- 1 Venice. The Carnevale di Venezia is famous for its iconic masks.
- 2 Rio de Janeiro.
- 3 New Orleans Mardi Gras.
- 4 Toronto.
- 5 Cologne.