People all around the world love joining together and sharing good times through festivities and celebrations. Carnivals are celebrations marking significant times such as seasons or events across the world. Often times these carnivals will recognize religions or cultures and will be celebrated through parades, food, entertainment, music and costumes. There are hundreds of carnivals across the world, but there are a select few that have really gained in popularity over the years.
10] The Carnival of Cultures
Established in 1996 The Carnival of Cultures in Berlin, Germany has become one of the city’s most popular and anticipated events. The carnival is held each year to celebrate the diversity of cultures within the city. There are over 450,000 people living in Berlin that have settled there from all over the world. This makes the city very diverse in not only culture, but ethnicity and religion as well. With over 3 million residents from Germany and a half million in visitors, the festivities have gotten bigger and better each year. Unique foods and international cuisines, along with music and dancing have brought lots of attention to Berlin. Held during late spring, the carnival offers parades that recognize up to 80 different countries and cultures.
There are also plenty of street music performances in the Kreuzberg district that offer entertainment for everyone. You can watch acrobatic acts, look at all types of folk art, listen to a wide variety of bands or just witness some of the amazing shows all around the city. There is plenty to do and see. The best part is no matter how unique your culture you are welcomed and recognized as an important part of the life in Berlin.
9] The Fastnacht in Köln
The Fastnacht or Karneval, in Köln, Germany is known as the biggest and most crazy carnival around all the cities of Germany. The word Fastnacht means “fasting night” which resembles the celebrations held around the world in honor of the upcoming Lent season. However, the Karneval has also been linked back to the pagan times when the people would wear masks to rid the evil spirits of winter from the city. This is where the wearing of masks still plays a part in the theme of the carnival as well as to hide the people from their social status.
During the festival there are lots of street and pub parties everywhere and people are dressed in all sorts of costumes. There are costume balls, parades, dancing and music to be enjoyed. During this time all business comes to a halt and everyone joins together for laughter, singing and lots of crazy antics. The parade is one of the longest and stretches nearly 5 miles with thousands of spectators lining the streets to watch and catch the abundant candies thrown to the crowd. The people of Köln take their partying very seriously and expect everyone around to have a great time and lots of fun.
8] Carnival in Aalborg
In 1982, in northern Europe the Scandinavians decided it was time to have their own carnival and started the Carnival in Aalborg, Denmark. This carnival takes place the 21st week of the year, or typically the last week in May. Although this carnival started out small, it has growing rapidly in popularity. During this week you can enjoy the Battle of the Carnival bands, where bands from local Scandinavia and all over the world come to perform their shows and be judged during the competition. There is also a Grand Parade that is remarkable and leads everyone down to the city park where there are lots of entertainers, samba music, and dancing.
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There are typically four stages that have a collaboration of all types of entertainment and performances to enjoy. Part of the Carnival tradition is to have a Children’s Carnival the week prior to the Carnival of Aalborg when the streets are transformed into a wonderful and magical place for all children to enjoy. The people of Scandinavia know how to have a good time and feel it’s important to involve people from all ages as well as any people who would love to visit and join in on the celebration.
7] Basler Fastnacht or Carnival of Basel
Basler Fastnacht, or the Carnival of Basel, Switzerland is a carnival that actually starts the Monday after Ash Wednesday. It lasts exactly 72 hours and represents the time in which the town was ruled by the people. It has been referred to as the three most beautiful days in which the people can run through the streets and restaurants unrestricted. During the 72 hours of the carnival celebration, the town’s people wear awesome costumes and masks to hide their identity and it is actually considered inappropriate to show ones face during this time.
The carnival consists of marching bands, concerts, floats, lots of confetti, and beautiful lanterns. There are special events for everyone including a day especially for families and children. Although it can be enticing to take part in Carnival of Basel, it has been said that for visitors it can be an overwhelming experience. The traditions are so unique and different that only the locals may fully understand and appreciate them. With their own Basel dialect and their inside humor, it can become quite a culture shock. Everything is meant in fun, but be prepared for the concoction of humorous, yet dark and mediaeval undertones throughout the mix of festivities.
6] The Winter Carnival in Quebec
In Canada the winters can be harsh and long lasting. This is why the people of Quebec decided years ago that the winter is the best time to have a celebration. The Winter Carnival in Quebec City, has become another world famous celebration with ice sculptures, shops, music, arts and crafts, food, balls, dog sledding, canoe races, and much more. The famous drink the “Caribou” has been one of the biggest hits of all. Originating from when the French Trappers used to make this concoction to stay warm during the brutal winters, it has now been revised and is a delicious treat shared by many.
The motto of the carnival is to have as much fun as possible and the spirit during these few weeks in January and February is very uplifting for all locals and visitors alike. Although the temperatures can get very low during carnival time there are plenty of places to sneak into and get warm. The carnival mascot is Bonhomme Carnaval, which is French for “snowman”. This giant snowman in the red hat and belt is known as the official ambassador of the Winter Carnival and his knights, the knuks, keep the mood light and cheery for those of all ages.
5] The Carnival of Venice
The Carnival of Venice, in Venice, Italy is a festival that celebrates the transition from winter to spring and the mix of traditions, entertainment, and history throughout the Venetian city. As one of the most internationally popular carnivals, it is also one of the oldest, dating back into the 14th century. In the beginning, the people of the city would wear masks to disguise themselves. This way there would be no social status shown between the upper class and the common people. By wearing masks everyone could take part in the celebration as equals. These masks are now known as the Venetian Masks and draw much attention. They require so much detail and time to make them so unique and beautiful that they are taken very seriously as a part of the celebration.
With grand balls, shows, dinners, parties, orchestras, cocktails and the amazing costumes and masks, this carnival attracts people from all over the world. Although a lot of the original carnival traditions have been lost over the years, it seems some of the newer ideas have evolved and have attracted lots of new people to visit this beautiful city. Unlike a lot of the other festivities that Venice has to offer this carnival is not kept such a secret.
4] The Carnival in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago
Also originated by the French, The Carnival in the Caribbean, in Trinidad and Tobago has become one of a kind. When the French came over and took root in the Caribbean they brought along with them their slaves and the idea of slavery. The rich settlers would celebrate their wealth through fantastic balls, where they’d were masks, wigs, beautiful gowns and dance the night away. While the masters were away, the Africans would celebrate on their own and once slavery ended and the Africans were able to take part in the celebrations, the traditions took on a new twist.
If you have ever been to the Caribbean you would already know that the people living there know how to have a good time. There is a whole new feeling on the islands in the Caribbean that you just cannot experience anywhere else. The Carnival of the Caribbean is no different. They take all their talent and energy and put it into the carnival and it shows. The Carnival is full of dancing, calypso and soca music, competing steel bands, costumes and great fun had by all. There is nothing more tropic than joining the festivities of the Caribbean.
3] The Carnival of Nice
The Carnival of Nice represents, once again, the fun filled days leading up to the beginning of Lent. In Nice, France, on the French Riviera, the two weeks prior to “Fat Tuesday” also known as Mardi Gras, are celebrated without the restrictions on the Catholic faith. Often dressed in masks and big headed caricature costumes, the people of Nice take this time to enjoy themselves, lighten up and take part in the feasts, drinks, dancing and parades across the city of Nice.
The parades are every day and night during the carnival and during the Battle of the Flowers there are 20 spectacular floats paraded down the streets covered in beautiful bouquets. The costumes and floats are so extraordinary that there is a committee assigned yearly to help plan the new and wonderful themes of the carnival. This is a time for unrestricted fun and wonderful times with a grand bonfire and fireworks ending the final day of the carnival. With plenty of entertainment from rock and techno concerts to gorgeous flowers filling the streets you can imagine how truly one of a kind this carnival really is. The Carnival of Nice has had over one million locals and tourists come to join the celebration and it continues to grow in popularity each year.
2] Mardi Gras
Brought to the United States by the French, Margi Gras dates back to the 1830’s and takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. It has become one of the most popular celebrations of the United States. Thousands of people flock to the city mid- February to help celebrate the time surrounding “Fat Tuesday.” This is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the 40 days of Lent that Catholics celebrate. These festivities are also celebrated around the world, but have all taken a different spin. Over the years, Mardi Gras has turned into more about celebrating different cultures and people that like to join in together to have a great time.
The carnival in New Orleans is especially known for its parties, amazing parade, beautiful floats, wonderful food, drinks, and the wearing of colorful beads. There are a few traditions associated with Mardi Gras and these include the making and eating of King Cakes, and acquiring doubloons and beads as souvenirs. The three reoccurring colors seen throughout the Mardi Gras celebration are Purple(representing Justice), Gold (representing Power) and Green (representing Faith). While attending the Mardi Gras celebration you will be surrounded my jazz music, marching bands and elaborate costumes.
1] Carnival of Rio de Janeiro
Carnival of Rio de Janeiro located in Brazil started out similarly to Mardi Gras. However, the traditions of the carnival have taken a slightly different direction when it comes to events. The carnival is a four day celebration held the four days prior to Ash Wednesday. This carnival is considered a farewell to the pleasures of the flesh prior to Lent and the carnival preparation starts months in advance. The Samba Parade has been thought of as one of the most beautiful shows on earth.
Televised on international broadcasts there are samba groups competing in all night spectacular shows in the Sambodrome. These samba groups work endlessly rehearsing and perfecting their shows just for this special occasion. Also the Street carnival has over 400 groups, called Bandas and Blocos, throughout the neighborhoods that march, parade, dance and dress in costume. Each Banda or Bloco has its own theme and can move around the streets adding to the party atmosphere. Other traditions that are part of the carnival are the amazing parties and balls to attend. Also, it is not uncommon to see men dressed in drag walking along the streets as part of the fun.
As you can see, there are many different carnivals to be enjoyed around the world, and these only represent a select few.