Carnival is a western Christian festive,celebrated just before the beginning of the liturgical season of lent, usually during the month of February/ March. It is a public celebration, combining some elements from circus, mask and a public street party. The people are allowed to lose their everyday individuality and there is a sense of social unity.
It originated in the 15th century, especially in catholic parts of Europe. Here it unfolded first in Italy, where we still today see these spectacular masks in Venice or the fabulous parades in Viareggio.
From Italy the tradition came to Germany in the 17th century, here too in the catholic areas like Cologne, Mainz or Düsseldorf but also southern Germany. Here we often speak too of “ Fastnacht or Fasching” It starts 11th of November and ends Ash Wednesday. Some people call it too the 5th season. The highlight of the season is the last week before the beginning of lent. It starts with Thursday, “ Weiberfastnacht” where woman are allowed to do everything they want to do. A tradition is to cut of the ties from men wearing suits.A lot of street parades with floats take place.
The most famous ones are in Mainz, Cologne or Düsseldorf on “Rosenmontag. Marching bands wearing colorful uniforms have their origin during the time of the military occupation of Napoleon.
Other famous carnival tradition is the Mardi Gras in Louisana, USA. The French settlers brought the tradition to the New World. Today we have at this day great parades and great marching bands celebrating Cajun Music and Jazz in the streets of New Orleans.
In Brazil it is important to celebrate carnival, because it is a major part of Brazilian culture. Samba plays an extraordinary role. For example the typical Carnival of Rio parade is filled with revelers, floats, and adornments from numerous samba schools. Every year the different samba schools in town try to find the best one.
Samba remains a popular dance especially in the ghettos outside of the main city. These places keep alive the historical meaning of this kind of dancing without any influence of the western cultures. With colorful costumes and unusually carriages the carnival attracts more than 2 million spectators per year and it is valid with it as a largest carnival in the world.
On the whole you can see, there are different kinds of ways to celebrate these days. But the meaning is always the same: to get together, to have no different social differences and to enjoy these days.
By Dominik Daniel