Carnival around the world
Elegant papier-mâché masks provided the Venetian nobility with the anonymity they needed to let their hair down. During the carnival, nobles and commoners were able to share costumes and fun thanks to a decree signed in 1296 by the senate of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. One of the most famous people to attend the carnival was the Italian adventurer Casanova, who never missed out on a party. It is held in February.
Rio de Janeiro carnival
For five days, the Brazilian city is decked out in sequins and the streets fill with music. The samba is the official soundtrack of the celebration, considered one of the best parties in the world. Five million people attend the parades and join in the craziness among huge floats and jewelled and feathered costumes, which take months to make. The carnival is held 40 days before Easter week, usually between February or March.
Mockery and satire, especially when politicians are on the receiving end, are the stars of Aalst carnival. The celebration is 600 years old; even UNESCO keeps track of its jokes, and in 2010 it was included on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The celebrations include a broom dance, a procession of giant effigies and a ceremony in which the mayor gives the Carnival Prince the key to the city. The event lasts three days and begins on the Sunday before Lent.
New Orleans Mardi Gras
Green, purple and gold and the official colours of the Mardi Gras. They represent justice, faith and power, but for the past 160 years they also have meant parties and fun, the best excuse for losing your inhibitions (and your clothes), even if the local residents are not always too pleased about it. The celebrations take place between February and March, depending on the date of Easter. Carnival in the biggest city in Louisiana lasts for several weeks, but the most important day is Shrove Tuesday (which is why it’s called ‘mardi’). There are floats, music, picnics, fancy dress and bead throwing.
Even though the carnival takes place at an altitude of 3,700 metres high in the mountains of Bolivia, it has not prevented it from becoming well known all over the world. Pre-Colombian and Christian traditions mix together in all the festivities in which more than 28,000 dancers take part. The main act is a colourful 4-km procession, livened up by about 50 groups. It is usually held at the end of February.
Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
For one week this city on the Canary Islands increases its population five-fold and gets busy breaking records. Like the one it set in 1987 for the largest gathering of people in an outdoor space to attend a concert, when Celia Cruz got more than 250,000 people dancing. The colourful and sparkling costumes can weigh up to 200 kilos. Every year a Carnival Queen is elected, who is then the star of the main parade. The date varies between February and March.