10 Carnivals in the world out of the ordinary

Carnival celebrations around the world

The term Carnival comes from the Latin word “carnem which literally means “remove the meat” and refers to the last banquet before the fasting period of Lent. During this festive period, everything was allowed, and people became someone else, by masks and disguises.

What’s Carnival today? We’ve listed some of the most curious and popular carnivals in the world!

1. Quebec Carnival

It’s unique because all the celebrations are held on snow or ice, due to the temperatures that can reach -30C° in Canada during that period. It dates to 1894 when the population was looking for entertainment in this hard time between Christmas and Lent due to the cold. The first official edition was that of 1955 when a mascot was also established, the Bonhomme Carnaval, a snowman symbol of joie de vivre.

The snow-covered streets host the two Night Parades, and then there are several sports competitions: canoe races, ax throwing, dog sled racing, and of course the bath in the snow!

The typical dessert is the Maple Taffy, hot maple syrup poured on snow, cooled, and swirled around a stick forming a sweet. For those who prefer pancakes, there are the Beavertails. The official drink of the carnival is the Caribou, a blend of red wine, whiskey, and maple syrup that can be drunk hot or cold and that is served in glasses carved in ice.

The pride of this unique carnival is the exhibition of ice sculptures created by artists from all over the world.

2. Oruru Carnival in Bolivia

Oruro was founded by the Spanish in 1606 and the local Aymara and Quechua populations maintained their traditions, “hiding” them under the guise of Catholic rituals. To convert the locals to the new religion, the missionaries promoted traditional dances and music during Catholic holidays. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Andean rituals had merged with the Catholic ones, giving life to the Carnival of Oruro, whose leitmotiv is the battle between Good and Evil, where the main characters are archangels, saints, the Earth goddess Pachamama and the Devil Supay.

El Tio is the icon of Carnival, an evil character known as the uncle of the mountains, which the indigenous miners consider the owner of the minerals in the mines. To appease his anger due to the subtraction of minerals, the miners leave for El Tio beer, food and cigarettes during the carnival.

The main event takes place on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. Taking part in the Carnival is a great honor for every Bolivian. The celebrations are closed by eating llama meat and burning the leftover bones.

Carnival celebrations around the world

3. Busojaras Carnival in Hungary

This carnival is characterized by the presence of the Busós, the typical monstrous masks that parade during processions and dances. According to the legend, during the 17th-century Turkish occupation, the inhabitants of the village were exiled to the forest. A knight who appeared them suggested to creating scary masks and taking back their homes.

The closing day of the carnival is called Farsangtemetés, during which a bonfire symbolizes the end of the old and the beginning of the new.

4. Basel Carnival

It’s part of the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Carnival of Basel has Celtic and Germanic origins, and it is based on ancestor worship, the end of winter and fertility rituals.

In the 19th century, the first clique’s neighborhood associations were formed. They still parade during the carnival playing fifes, trumpets, and drums. All this takes place for three days until the stroke of four in the morning on Shrove Thursday which closes the festivities.

Basel Carnival as we see it today, developed in the second half of the 20th century. Some Goschdym (costumes) are characters from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, while others belong to local folklore. All participants are completely masked and anonymous because no one should be recognized under the larva, a hand-made face mask.

5. Carnival of Binche in Belgium

The first Carnival dates to 1549 and it is considered one of the most spectacular in the world. The climax of the Carnival of Binche is on Shrove Tuesday when the Gilles of Binche parade around the city in colorful costumes and with ostrich feather hats.

The Gille is the most important figure of this Carnival, he welcomes spring and performs a typical dance. Every element of his costume has a symbolic meaning linked to Belgium and Binche, and it includes a belt with seven or nine rattles called an “apertintaille”. It is sewn using meters of fabric and about 150 meters of ribbon for the collar.

On Shrove Tuesday he wears a headdress made with over 300 ostrich feathers that can weigh up to 3 kg, and a wax mask on his to symbolize equality. The Gilles are always accompanied by a drummer, they never sit in public, and they must come from Binche.

6. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

The Carnival of Trinidad and Tobago developed afterward French domination. African and indigenous slaves were originally confined to their lodgings during the festivities, but when they were allowed to participate, the Carnival was enriched with their customs and traditions, such as music, sounds and songs deriving from the work in the fields, as well as the simulation of fights with sticks and drums.

The Carnival of the J’Ouvert Slaves is today a historical re-enactment: it is celebrated by coloring face and body while wearing tattered and dirty clothes.

Carnival celebrations from around the world

7. Cologne Carnival

One of the best-known carnivals in Germany that offers every day a different parade like the day of the women’s carnival when they walk around the city kissing strangers and cutting men’s ties, including policemen ones!

The Official Parade (Rosenmontagszug) is the largest carnival parade in Germany and masked people on floats throw tons of sweets and flowers to the crowds shouting “Kamelle!”. On Shrove Tuesday, on the other hand, people go to the Kneipe, drinking beer and burning the Nubbel, a straw doll for celebrating the end of the season (Nubbelverbrennung).

8. New Orleans Mardi Gras

The first Mardi Gras parade dates back to February 24 1857 when masked floats paraded in the lesser-known city districts. Nowadays it still the same and people gather to watch bands marching and playing,  while doubloons and necklaces are thrown out of the windows.

Preparations begin on January 6 and locals traditionally use only purple, gold, and green masks.

9. Carnival of Panaji in Goa (India)

Celebrated since the 18th century, it was introduced by the Portuguese who ruled Goa for more than five hundred years. It is the only carnival celebrated in India. Parades and marching bands culminate in the famous red and black ball held by the Clube Nacional in Panjim.

The carnival takes place in February for three days and nights when the legendary King Momo takes the power, often complemented by the “Grape Escapade”, a local wine festival at Samba Square in the Municipal Garden of Panjim Garcia DeOrta.

Carnival celebrations around the world

10. Carnival of Tenerife

In Tenerife, the Santa Cruz Carnival is the most awaited party of the year, and many consider it the most impressive carnival in the world only after the one in Rio! Typical are the “murgas”, street theater performances involving folk groups of musicians, dancers and actors.

The carnival’s main events are the election of the Carnival Queen, followed by the parade of the Coso, a huge parade of floats, and the “Burial of the Sardine” when the spirit of Carnival, represented by a sardine, is carried through the streets on a carriage, before being burned in front of a court of accompanying widows.

Did you know these carnivals?

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