Looking for the best place to go next Carnival season? If you’re thinking of heading to one of the biggest parties in the world, then you’ll want one of these five! They’ve all got their distinct flavors and traditions, but all are a total blast when celebrating the beginning of Lent.
So big it made it into the Guinness Book of World Records! Specifically, the celebration in Rio de Janeiro is on record as the biggest party on the planet. The rest of the country doesn’t slouch either. In fact, Brazil basically shuts down during the Carnival season.
The Carnival in Brazil doesn’t just have regular parades. They have city wide parades mean to be watched by everyone, but they also have smaller parades called blocos, or “blocks.” These are meant to be interacted by the attendees and are generally more popular as they are more “hands-on.”
Generally, when Americans think of Carnival or Mardi Gras, they think of New Orleans. This may be because of how influential the huge party in spring has become! Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition in the late 17th century. The settlers who helped found the city discovered the area on Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French.
Today, it’s one of the biggest parties in the world, with the French Quarter virtually being taken over for the entire week. Partygoers dress in wild costumes celebrating spring and the beginning of the Lent season.
As opposed to all the warm spring types of parties on this list, Quebec has the largest winter themed carnival in the world. It includes a winter amusement park, skiing, ice sculptures, and snow rafting. It’s a huge change from all the dancing and parades, but it’s no less a celebration!
The Carnival celebrations in Quebec were private gatherings until 1894 when the first organized event occurred. That was the first year an ice castle was built to commemorate the event. The winter Carnival event has been going uninterrupted since 1955.
The Carnival celebrations in Belgium date back to (at least) the 16th century. In 2003, the Carnival of the city of Binche was recognized as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity! Another party city, Aalst, is expected to receive the same recognition soon.
One of the oldest participants in the city of Binche is the Gilles. There are typically 1,000 of them, all male, and wear wooden clogs and wax masks. They throw blood oranges to (and apparently, sometimes at) the crowd and carrying ramons, which are tied bunches of twigs, to carry the oranges.
Since the word “Carnival” comes from (according to some, at least) Italian, carne vale meaning “goodbye meat,” then it’s only natural Italy gets one of the biggest parties celebrating it. In watery Venice Carnival runs around ten days and has historical records dating back to 1268!
Masks are a major part of the Venetian celebration of Carnival, and for good reason. Throughout the years, various rulers have attempted to ban the parties and wearing of masks. The rejection of these attempted bannings led the city to embrace them as part of their culture, and many Venetians will wear the masks most of the year!
What has been your experience with Carnival? In what countries and cultures have you celebrated the beginning of Lent?