The air is filled with joy, laughter and, in some parts of the city, a whole lot of debauchery. Some people love to stand along St. Charles Avenue with a big tent over their heads as oversized floats glide through the crowd throwing beads and other whatnots. Others prefer to have a less intense celebration on Veterans Avenue, sitting in stands decorated in purple, green and gold. When day turns to night, as the saying goes, all the freaks join the party—ready to take in all the abundance before those patrol horses do their midnight stroll of escorting the street cleaners, preparing for the holy season.
Welcome to the wondrous world of Carnival. A time we, in New Orleans, call Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). A time where the only important decisions are related to parking, food, alcohol, and whether you'll stand on the "sidewalk" or the "neutral ground" (median) side.
While Mardi Gras in the Big Easy is the best in the USA (sorry, Mobile, Alabama), we aren't the only group of party animals celebrating Carnival. In fact, the celebration that is directly related to Ash Wednesday is celebrated in many parts of the world—all parts having the same feeling of over indulgence before a more peaceful season. For us, that peaceful season is Lent. But for several other cultures, the season relates to everything from Lent to harvest to hibernation. No matter the differences, one thing is true for all: Carnival is a time for forgetting your worries, letting it all hang loose, and living life to the fullest.
Carnival Around the World
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: February 24-28, 2017
You can't mention Carnival without talking about the elaborate colorful celebration demonstrated in Brazil. While many parts of Brazil celebrate Carnival, it's safe to say that Rio has the most famous Carnival celebration of them all. The celebration alone draws in millions of people each year. Rio has been hosting their annual Carnival since 1723 and is said to have some of the most amazing floats you'll ever see. While the floats are well organized, festival-goers are allowed to freely fill the streets and party with the masses.
Carnival in Venice, Italy: February 11-28, 2017
If you ever set foot on the ground in Venice, Italy, you'll notice that the similarities between New Orleans and Venice are astounding. Venice, also known as "The Floating City," is a beautiful, historical one-of-a-kind place. Its extremely narrow streets, multitude of masquerade shops, and all of its excessive decadence makes it the perfect Carnival destination. Not to mention, every angle of this city is postcard-worthy. Venice's Carnival celebration is one of the most historic and dates back to ancient times. It's been documented that the Carnival celebrated in New Orleans is directly related to the ones of ancient Europe.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival: February 27-28, 2017
From soca to calypso, if you want to dance your feet off during the Carnival season, then look no further than the beautiful island of Trinidad. Brightly colored costumes decorate only the most private parts of the attendees as they spend two days of shaking, twisting and drinking a whole lotta rum. This Carnival opens with J'Ouvert, where parade-goers stroll the streets, decorating themselves in colorful paint, and dancing from the middle of the night until sunrise. The thought of fitting one of the biggest parties in the world onto a small island is enough to allure the masses.
Binche Carnival, Belgium: February 26-28, 2017
Looking for something strange but interesting? Belgium has an interesting history and nothing shows it more than their Carnival celebration, where clown-like performers known as Gilles dance through the streets wearing various costumes, including waxy masks and large feathered crowns. Sound familiar? Carrying sticks and baskets of oranges to throw at festival attendees, these Gilles ward off bad spirits and bring vigor and longevity.
Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands): February 19- March 5, 2017
Considered the second most popular Carnival celebration after Rio, Tenerife Carnival is an elaborate expression of vibrant colors, over-the-top costumes and decadence. To top it all off, the celebration lasts for an entire month.
The people of Tenerife take partying quite seriously and Carnival is no exception. The month is filled with parades, fireworks, concerts, dancing and an immense amount of fun. Not only is the festival ideal, but the island itself is an absolutely stunning location to spend your Carnival holiday.
^ The Carnival of Oruro, Oruro, Bolivia
Other Carnivals Around the World (Not directly related to Ash Wednesday):
- Lagos Carnival, Lagos, Nigeria
- Notting Hill Carnival, London, England
- Toronto International Carnival Parade, Toronto, Canada
- Bacchanal Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica
- The Carnival of Oruro, Oruro, Bolivia
- The Nice Carnival on the French Riviera, Nice, France
- Carnaval de Barranquilla, Barranquilla, Colombia
- Strumica Carnival, Macedonia
- Banyuwangi Ethno Carnival, Indonesia
- Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, Japan
- Tropical Carnival, Paris, France
- Bali Art Festival, Bali, Indonesia
- Carnival of Cultures, Berlin, Germany