What Is Carnival? 6 Things To Know About Festive Season

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate carnival and what does it mean? Here are 6 things you probably didn't know about this festivity. Reuters

Whenever we hear the word “Carnival” or “Carnaval” we think of Rio de Janeiro and half-naked people dancing around with colorful headpieces and having a good time. Or maybe Renaissance-themed dresses, powdered wigs and masks at the Venetian carnival. But have you ever stopped to wonder, where does this celebration come from? Or, why do we celebrate it in the early months of the year? Here we have gathered 6 facts to help you understand this celebration better!

1) Carnival is a festive season, which occurs immediately before Lent. It typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party.

2) Carnival is traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic population.

3) Lent, the six weeks directly before Easter, was marked by fasting and other pious or penitential practices. Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fats and sugar. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of, so people threw a big party with the whole community to finish all of it. This is thought to be the origin of Carnival.

4) Some of the best-known traditions, including carnal parades and masquerade balls were first recorded in medieval Italy. The carnival of Venice was, for a long time, the most famous carnival.

5) From Italy, Carnival traditions spread to the Catholic nations of Spain, Portugal, and France. From France it spread to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal it spread with Catholic colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America.

6) The exact origin of the name "Carnival" is disputed, but some state that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat," signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, so suggesting carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh," a phrase actually embraced by certain Carnival celebrants who encourage letting go of your former self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival.

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Maria G. Valdez

Maria was born and raised in Dominican Republic, where she began her career in journalism covering human interest stories, entertainment, beauty and wellness for a national magazine. She moved to New York City to study Musical Theatre, but went back to journalism after graduating in an attempt of becoming the Latina Carrie Bradshaw. She has an unhealthy obsession with JLo and claims to be Sofia Vergara’s long-lost daughter, and has tried a crazy amount of treatments to keep looking young. She became a Zumba instructor for fun.