#TrendingNews Blog Business Entertainment Environment Health Lifestyle News Analysis Opinion Science Sports Technology World News
Carnaval all around the world: a festivity as a cultural expression

Credit: Wikimedia Commons Image

Masked balls, street parties, the enabling of being who you are without subverting to common social norms. Celebrated all around the world—from Denmark to Brazil, Italy to South Africa—people go to the streets with their carefully crafted, DIY costumes to celebrate Carnaval. The annual jubilant festival is well known for its flamboyance and exuberant rhythms, but what is Carnaval really about?

The origins of Carnaval throughout the world

With roots dating to ancient civilizations that held several festivities to honor deities, the seasons, and special events, Carnaval helped a lot to shape how we celebrate important dates in our current days.

Carnival is believed to have officially emerged during the Middle Ages; however, many elements of this festival were reproductions of a few ancient celebrations, notably those of the Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Romans.

Mesopotamian Carnival, for example, was marked by the “upside down world,"  which was a belief in the existence of a world where things were temporarily reversed. While Greeks and Romans held parties to honor Dionysus—also known as Bacchus, for Romans—festivals that promoted drinking and carnal pleasures.

Carnaval also has a close link to Christianity. In the Middle Ages, with the consolidation of the Catholic Church, parties were suddenly seen mostly as ways to engage in sinful practices. Therefore, during the High Middle Ages, it was established that 40 days of fasting and repentance preceded the Holy Week, a way to condense the population's festive needs for the weeks known as Lent.

These forty days resulted in another important date: carnis levale. Meaning “to remove the flesh,"   carnis levale or Carnaval, began as a period when people could indulge in their desires before starting the purification days preceding Lent. It was a moment of preparation before the withdrawal of carnal pleasures.

The differences in celebration dates

Carnaval dates vary around the world. During the Middle Ages, the period of Carnaval could last months, right after Christmas or before Lent. It was a period for public jokes and mockery, as well as plays, alcohol, and plenty of food, no matter if inaccessible to most people during the rest of the year like meat or not. , a food that was inaccessible to most people during the rest of the year.

In modern Brazil, for example, Carnaval is celebrated for five days, changing yearly according to the calendar set by the Catholic Church, always ending the day before Lent starts.

North European Carnaval, on the other hand, always happens seven weeks before Easter Sunday. It is only celebrated on one day and is often known as Nordic Halloween since most people wear costumes, go to parades, and gather treats.

It goes beyond the spectacle of pageantry and glitter. Carnaval holds a deep cultural meaning, it is a catalyst for musical, artistic, and performing expression, and a way to make marginalized voices heard, by addressing social issues while also celebrating diversity, and promoting inclusivity.

Economic implications and Carnaval tourism

Because of its vibrance and sense of togetherness, Carnaval became a pivotal festival for stimulating tourism. The festivities provide opportunities for a lot of cities around the globe to showcase their cultures and cuisine, while also allowing space for their artists to be presented to a global audience and promoting cultural tourism in the country.

Brazilian Carnaval, perhaps the most well-known Carnaval in the world, for example, was able to generate approximately 600 thousand dollars in the city of São Paulo alone in 2020, right before the pandemic.

It is clear that the festivity has become a significant date for many businesses and people who benefit from Carnaval annually.

Influences, geographical spread, and long-lasting effects

In the 15th century, Carnaval was able to spread around the world due to colonialism and the Age of Exploration, adapting and taking several forms while blending European, Indigenous, and African traditions.

Carnaval endured wars, several pandemics, and political commotions. It has become a symbol of hope and resilience, being adaptable enough to survive times of crisis and always coming back even stronger than before.

COVID-19 proved the essential presence this festival has in the lives of millions of people. Organizers were forced to think outside the box and innovate creatively with virtual parades and performances live-streamed to the public, allowing these modifications to ensure the survival of this sense of closeness and the joy of people who were quarantined in their homes.

Carnaval is more than a party

Despite its carnal origins, Carnaval transcended the ideas of sin and flesh. It became a form of expression, giving people a place to celebrate their differences in safe spaces while celebrating creativity and culture.

More than that, Carnaval became a beacon of optimism while showing us that solidarity and humanity can endure power and historical tragedies if we only keep a more inclusive and joyful connection in each other’s worlds.



Share This Post On


Leave a comment

You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in