South American Carnival: February 18-21
Carnival is a public holiday in South America.
Carnival, or “carnaval” in Portuguese, is a four-five day celebration starting from Saturday and usually ends on Tuesday (Mardi-Gras) in some countries. The actual date of carnival celebration varies slightly from country to country with the last day considered as the most special, but is celebrated before the beginning of lent in Roman Catholic calendar in February. The holiday is very popular because of its exuberant display of masquerade parties on street and state-sponsored floats, parades, and costumed dancers singing and dancing in public.
Mardi-Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the US-counterpart carnival celebration in New Orleans which is celebrated in much the same way as that of South American countries. The practice of wearing colourful and extravagant costumes during carnival is believed to be a Pagan ritual that is used to drive away evil spirits during the festivities. Today, however, people participating in parades covered with mask do so either for tradition or fashion sake or to celebrate with a certain degree of anonymity.
Music of all types is played incessantly while drinks and food of all sorts are sold in every corner of the street including live bands and DJs playing music to hungry partygoers.
History of South America Carnival
The history of carnival dates back to the medieval times. Carnival is derived from Latin “carnem levare” which means ‘removal of flesh’ which suggests the abstinence of people both from alimental (food) and bodily pleasures. Alimental relates to refraining from eating meat during the season of lent.
Carnival is held to give way for the Catholics to indulge on earthly pleasures or physical appetites relating to food, temporal, and other worldly pleasures before the lent starts. Lent requires people to give up worldly pleasures and spend the next 40 days fasting starting from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.
Carnival is celebrated around the globe although it is largely concentrated in Europe, South America (Brazil and Mexico) and parts of the US such as New Orleans in Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama. Some countries in Asia especially around the Pacific region also celebrate a local version of carnival.
South American Carnival: Traditions, Customs and Activities
Brazil considers carnival as the most celebrated holiday of all. It is a week without work so people usually participate in a week of parties and festivities indulging both in hard drinking and dancing in the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro or sometimes taking part in organized parades put together by the local government.
Mexico takes the third place in the most-attended carnival celebrations behind Rio de Janerio in Brazil and New Orleans in the US. While carnival is celebrated in Mexico in all major cities, the celebration in Mazatlan is the most anticipated.
Every year, more than 300,000 people attend the carnival celebration in Mazatlan in Mexico. It is a popular destination for carnival festivities along with other Mexico’s famous port cities such as Veracurz, Ensenada, and La Paz. If you’re planning to visit Mexico to witness this famous celebration, it is advisable to make reservations months before the actual date as boarding and lodging accommodation spike up during the holidays.
People from all walks of life actually participate in this yearly festive celebration. It has become a part of people’s way of life both for Catholics or non-Catholics. People in the US celebrating this tradition and some parts of South America throw confetti eggs or ‘cascarones’ to one another as part of the tradition’s ritual. This practice is believed to bring good luck to the person who’s hit by it.
Apart from the above activities, masquerade balls and rides that charge entrance fees are available. In the evening, a grand firework display awaits spectators and participants.
During the last day of the celebration, South American countries such as Mexico conduct cultural awards including literary contest such as poetry. The Clemencia Isaura Poetry recognizes and awards the individual with the best unpublished literary work in Mexico.
If you are a partygoer and looking for the best event to be at…then this is the best party celebration you should participate in. South American countries are the best place to be at for this type of celebration including New Orleans in the US.