Top 10 Best Carnivals in the World
Modern carnivals are colorful holidays filled with music, dances, bright costumes, interesting performances, customs and traditions that have survived from the Middle Ages with almost no changes. Carnivals appeared first in ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, but with the adoption of Christianity, they were prohibited, being considered heathen ceremonies. Only during the period of the Renaissance, when the power of inquisition began to diminish, the carnival culture was revived. Meant to bring only joy and celebration, carnivals have always been the favorite holidays of people, which erase all the boundaries between officials, citizens, estates and social classes. Although the exact meaning of the word ‘carnival’ means ‘a farewell to meat’ in Latin, as they were celebrated mainly during the Lent, from February to March, nowadays Carnivals are held all the year round in various corners of the world. Let’s get acquainted with the biggest and best carnivals with the help of our list of top 10 best carnivals in the world!
10. Jamaica Carnival in Kingston, Jamaica
Jamaica Carnival is one of the youngest in the world, which was first held on the coast between the two small historic towns of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios in 1989. Ten years after that, it turned into an international parade, which calls tourists from all over the world. Now, the carnival is held once a year at Easter time in April. It introduces Jamaican music styles of reggae, mento, ska and Bob Marley’s works.
9. Mardi Gras Carnival in New Orleans, United States
The name of Mardi Gras first appeared in 1800, when a small celebration was organized for the arrival of spring. Today, the festival has turned into a huge carnival, filled with parades, performances of actors and musicians, as well as funny jokes. The New Orleans Carnival season starts after Twelfth Night, on Epiphany (January 6). It’s a season of balls, parades, music and king cake parties. The celebration prolongs through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French), which is held at the end of February and the beginning of March annually. The biggest parades of the carnival is Bacchus Parade, when the participants come dressed in ancient Greek gods, and the Indian Parade, when people are dressed in bright costumes decorated with feathers and precious stones.
8. King of Masquerades Carnival in Nice, France
Carnaval de Nice or ‘King of Masquerades’ opens on the French Riviera along with the arrival of spring. The Nice carnival is held at the end of February and the beginning of March (February 17-March 4) every year. For almost two weeks, the streets are flooded with carnival parades; the heroes dressed in colorful costumes organize battles, while in the evenings the spectators witness beautiful fireworks and laser shows, as well as performances of wax figures, which are handmade especially for the carnival.
7. Carnival of Basel in Basel, Switzerland
Basel Carnival is one of the biggest holidays in Switzerland, held every year between February and March. In preparation for it, the locals decorate the trees and buildings with flowers, lanterns and bright illustrations. Later, the streets of Basel get crowded with the parades of drummers, musicians, locals and tourists in colorful costumes. The Swiss claim that exactly during their carnival first appeared the idea of confetti fireworks, without which it’s hard to imagine any carnival.
6. Goa Carnival in Panaji, India
Known as ‘Intruz’ (from the Portuguese word Entrudo, an alternative name of Carnival), the Goa Carnival takes place in Panaji, India, annually during the second half of February. The history dates back to the XVI century, when the Portuguese began to explore the territory of India and they shocked the locals with a strange celebration. Since then, the festival strongly merged with the local traditions and turned into a big holiday for the Indians. Eliminating class distinctions, white people were dressed in blacks, while slaves sprinkled their faces with flour and imitated their masters. Today, the Carnival of Goa lasts for three days without a break and is accompanied by music, colors, funny performances, serenades and fun.
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5. Carnival of Venice in Venice, Italy
Carnevale di Venezia or Venice Carnival is one of the most beautiful carnivals in the world. It is celebrated annually in Italy during the second decade of February. Venice Festival traces its history from the Roman Saturnalia, the main tradition of which was blurring the boundary between masters and slaves. Everyone was hiding their faces behind masks and could imitate anyone they wanted. Exactly this way appeared the main hero of Venice Carnival – the Mask. Every year, millions of tourists come to Venice and gather at the square of St. Mark to see the firework of tons of confetti.
4. Cologne Carnival in Cologne, Germany
2000 years ago Roman legionaries founded the town on the banks of the Rhine, which preserved the tradition of carnival in Latin culture. Now, Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany, which hosts one of the most amusing party-carnivals of Europe, calling millions of tourists to the town during the second half of February. Everyone is interested to see the calm and restrained Germans put on colorful costumes, take by storm the town hall to mark the beginning of this revolutionary carnival.
3. Patras Carnival in Peloponnese, Greece
The Patrino Karnavali or Patras Carnival in Peloponnese is the largest and most prolonged carnival in the Mediterranean. The Greeks have fun not just for two weeks like the French or Italians, but their carnival lasts for almost two months, starting with January 17 and ending in March. Although the Greek Carnival isn’t that old, it is closely connected with a rich Greek culture, absorbing the Greek mythology and looking really unusual and spectacular. Actors dressed in costumes of ancient Greek gods entertain the spectators through various competitions and performances. Women can get to the costume balls, which are really many here, only in masks and long hooded cloaks in order to remain incognito ladies, following the tradition.
2. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain
Held in the capital of the Canary Islands, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the largest one in Europe and the second most popular and internationally-known parade throughout the world after the carnival of Rio de Janeiro. Millions of tourists rush to Spain during the second half of February to be one of those lucky participants in this amazing show. The main event of Tenerife Carnival is the choosing of the Queen of Carnival. The contestants work on their costumes for a whole year, the weight of which can reach several tens of kilograms. When the queen is chosen, the parade begins with songs, dances and music, which will end on the shores of humorous “burial of the sardine”.
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1. Rio Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Officially the largest, most beautiful, expensive and the sexiest carnival in the world is the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, which is held every year before Lent, during the second half of February, and lasts for four days. However, unofficially, the Brazilians and the visitors celebrate it for more than a week. It’s a unique spectacle, fusing European cultures and traditions with the ones of ancient Indians and black slaves. The vibrant samba, Portuguese folk music, African ritual dancing and the polka are mixed in a colorful cocktail, which are performed by the best dancers in bright costumes, rightly regarded as works of art. According to the rules of the carnival, it is prohibited to go entirely naked. Therefore, the participants do their best each year to create the best and most revealing costumes.