To celebrate Carnival around the world, thousands of people travel each year to iconic sites like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to enjoy the samba parade, Venice, Italy to see the traditional masks, and New Orleans, Louisiana, USA for the wonderful Mardi Gras parade and celebration.
Mardi Gras is mainly celebrated in the United States and Canada, but it has gradually gained a foothold in Latin America as well.
In the Americas, Mardi Gras is celebrated mainly in New Orleans, Louisiana, home of the largest Mardi Gras carnival. Locals say the New Orleans pait’s the greatest show on earth that you don’t have to pay for, as thousands of people gather in crowds that line the parade route as far as the eye can see.
Tourists visiting New Orleans often go to Bourbon Street and sections of the French Quarter, although the larger parades no longer pass through there because the streets are too narrow for floats to pass.
In addition to New Orleans, Mardi Gras is also celebrated in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Mobile, Alabama; and St. Louis, Missouri; while in Canada, Quebec City hosts the festivities.
Necklaces at Mardi Gras
The celebration of Mardi Gras began in medieval Europe and eventually moved to the Americas where, in 1703, the small French-Canadian settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile held its first Mardi Gras celebration.
Beginning in the 1920s in New Orleans, guilds of parade organizers began the “throwing tradition” by tossing cheap glass bead necklaces into the crowd. The beads became so popular that they were adopted by all the parade’s confraternities, which number about sixty today.
The colorful necklaces function as a kind of currency in the Mardi Gras world. Although the necklaces are practically worthless, they become invaluable in this festive atmosphere.
Purple, green, and gold are the colors associated with Mardi Gras. For the founders of the Louisiana colony, these colors came to represent justice, faith and power. Today, these three colors signify the essence of Mardi Gras.
In addition to necklaces, there are also traditional carnival decorations including medallions, doubloons, glasses or “New Orleans china,” long strands of pearl beads, and stuffed animals.
How Carnival is celebrated around the world
In Germany, Carnival is celebrated on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, called Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), while in Sweden it is called Semladag, after Semla, the typical cake prepared for this day, filled with almond cream and cream.
In France, Carnival is closely linked to the medieval festival of the Fools. On this occasion, everyone could dress and behave as they wished and at the end of the party, a Pope of the Fools was elected. Victor Hugo mentioned this festival in his novel Notre-Dame de Paris.
Moving on to the UK, Carnival is also known as Shrove Tuesday, from the verb to shrive, which means to confess or obtain absolution. Some also call it Pancake Day because on this day, the tradition has pancakes as the food par excellence.
In Greece, Carnival lasts up to three weeks and includes masked balls and flower parades, inspired by Carnival in Venice.
In Denmark, the carnival is called Fastelavn or “fasting night,” and is considered a party for the little ones, with lots of fun games.
In this same country, ancient tradition provides for the election of a cat king: A small barrel is hung between two poles and boys in costume and on horseback try to hit it with clubs. Whoever manages to break it with a single blow wins the contents and the title of cat king. Today there are many sweets and candies inside, but in the past it contained a live cat, a symbol of evil that had to be chased away.
Finally, the Brazilian celebration of Carnival is a festival imported by the Portuguese in 1723, which was celebrated with the Entrudo (games organized especially to celebrate Carnival).
Later, other customs were introduced, such as the limoes de cheiro, or scented water ampoules, as well as the wonderful costumes of the samba dancers that have made Brazilian Carnival world famous.
By Andreina Ibarra.