Carnival is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life.
Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Protestant areas usually do not have Carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove Tuesday events. The Brazilian Carnival is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is the biggest Carnival in the world, and the biggest popular party on the planet, according to the Guinness Book of World Records 2010. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is also considered the world's most famous.
The Lenten period of the Liturgical year Church calendar, being 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. The forty days of Lent, recalling the Gospel accounts of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an annual time of turning. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community, is thought to be the origin of Carnival.
While it forms an integral part of the Christian calendar, particularly in Catholic regions, some carnival traditions may date back to pre-Christian times. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia may possibly have been absorbed into the Italian Carnival. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek Dionysia and Oriental festivals. While medieval pageants and festivals such as Corpus Christi were church-sanctioned celebrations, carnival was also a manifestation of medieval folk culture. Many local carnival customs are based on local pre-Christian rituals, for example the elaborate rites involving masked figures in the Swabian-Alemannic carnival.
Some of the best-known traditions, including carnival parades and masquerade ball masquerading, were first recorded in medieval Italy. The carnival of Venice was for a long time the most famous carnival. From Italy, carnival traditions spread to the Catholic nations of Spain, Portugal, and France. From France, they spread to the Rhineland of Germany, and to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal, they spread with Catholic colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America.
Other areas have developed their own traditions. In the United Kingdom, West Indian immigrants brought with them the traditions of Caribbean Carnival, however the Carnivals now celebrated at Notting Hill, London; Leeds, Yorkshire, and other places have become divorced from their cycle in the religious year, becoming purely secular events, that take place in the summer months.
Those that argue for the origin from "carne", point to variants in Italian dialects that would suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent.
The origin of the name "Carnival" is disputed, between those that have argue a link with the Italian word "carne" (meat), and those that argue a link with the word "carrus" (car). The link with carne would suggest an origin within Christianity, while the link with carro with earlier religions.
Folk etymologies exist which 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 (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival. However, explanations proceeding from carne vale seem to be folk etymologies and are not supported by philological evidence.
Other scholars argue for the origin from the Roman name for the festival of the Navigium Isidis (ship of Isis), where the image of Isis was carried to the sea-shore to bless the start of the sailing season. The festival consisted of a parade of masks following an adorned wooden boat, that would reflect the floats of modern Carnivals. Modern Carnival shares resemblances with the Navigium Isidis.
The Carnival season in Greece is also known as the Apokriés (Greek: Αποκριές, "saying goodbye to meat"), or the season of the "Opening of the Triodion", so named after the liturgical book used by the church from then until the Holy Week. One of the season's high points is Tsiknopémptẽ ("Smoke Thursday"), when celebrants enjoy roast beef dinners at taverns or friends' homes; the ritual is repeated the following Sunday. The following week, the last before Lent, is called Tyrinē (Greek: Τυρινή, "cheese [week]") because eating meat is not allowed, but dairy products are. The Great Lent begins on "Clean Monday", the day after "Cheese Sunday". Throughout the Carnival season, people disguise themselves as maskarádes ("masqueraders") and engage in pranks and general revelry.
Patras holds the largest annual Carnival in Greece; the famous Patras Carnival is a 3-day spectacle replete with concerts, balles masqués, parading troupes, floats, a treasure hunt and many events for children. The grand parade of masked troupes and floats is held at noon on Tyrine Sunday, and culminates in the ceremonial burning of the effigy of King Carnival at the Patras harbour.
In many other regions, festivities of smaller extent are organized, focused on the reenactment of traditional carnevalic customs; for example those held in Tyrnavos (Thessaly), Kozani (West Macedonia), Rethymno (Crete) and in Xanthi (East Macedonia and Thrace). Specifically Tyrnavos holds an annual Phallus festival, a traditional "phallkloric" event in which giant, gaudily painted effigies of phalluses made of papier maché are paraded, and which all women present are asked to touch, or kiss, their reward for doing so being a shot of the famous local tsipouro alcohol spirit. Also every year, to the very beginning (from 1 to 8 January), mostly in regions of the Western Macedonia, there are Carnival fiestas and festivals. The most known of them is the Kastorian Carnival or "Ragoutsaria" . It is taking place from 6 to 8 of January with a mass participation of the local population and thousands of visitors under the sounds of big brass bands, pipises, Macedonian and grand casa drums. It is an ancient celebration of natures' rebirth (fiestas for Dionysus (Dionysia) and Kronos (Saturnalia)), which ends the third day in a huge dance in the medieval square Ntoltso where all the bands are playing the same time and all the people are dancing too.
Patra s Carnival 2012 Patra s Carnival is the region's most important event and oneof the top events in the country. The Carnival's opening ceremony , signifies the beginning of all events and is an invitation to all citizens of Patra for active participation. The first official appearance of the Carnival Queen , the departure of the Carnival from Athens, the delivery of the message of the carnival's commencement at all stops it makes, the Carnivalist's vow and the presentation of part of the City's Carnival decor are the main features of the Patra Carnival during the past few years. We indicatively mention some of the events such as: " EIDOMATA ", " BABY RALLY ", " BOURBOULIA ", " FEGGARIA (MOONS) ", the Parade by Night on the eve of the Carnival's last Sunday and many other older ones that can instantly put you in the carnival mood. During the one but last week begins a series of events that last for four days starting from Tsiknopempti, which constitute the first big crescendo of the Carnival. During the last week we have the famous conclusion of carnival events with the two parades. Of the two parades, one of them takes place on Saturday night and the other on Sunday midday. Over 30,000 people participate, most of whom are members of the Hidden Treasure Group. The parade is viewed by more than 300,000 people and for 48 hours the capital of Achaia becomes the official party centre.
Carnival of Xanthi 2012 Xanthi, the Thracian town at the Balcanic neighbourhood, where different population groups co-exist, presents two festive institutions that are oraganised by the Municipal Company of Development (D.E.A.X.) The institution having the longest duration is the one of Xanthian Carnival-Thracian Folk Festival which started in 1966. Born in an era of urbanization and industrialization- in a critical era as far as the economic status is concerned, but as well as issues of identity are concerned-, has outlined a forty plus course, that went through a variety of phases of development and alteration ending up to what it is today. Xanthian Festival presents a series of activities that concern music, dance and theatre, exhibitions with artistic or other content, orations, book presentations and film projections. During those two weeks of organising all the above events, of vast importance is the form of social accomplishment, the revelry, which one may meet to different places and forms. The institution ends with the carnival parade and the custom of burning Tzaros’ effigy.
Rethymno's Carnival 2012 The Carnival of Rethymnon is an age-old cultural event overflowing with creativity and inspiration. It is a custom that the Municipality of Rethymnon tries to support and to enrich in every possible way each year. However, most important of all, are those volunteers who with all their hard work, enthusiasm and dedication make it all happen! It is all of these volunteers, young and old, whose passionate support and inspiration make this special event come together. Rethymnon, through its carnival, is able to reflect its long and interesting history, its traditions and the unique qualities that make the Rethymnians so special.