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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Lenten Season, 2018

Praying woman with
ashen cross on her forehead

Introduction and Religious Significance

As part of my ongoing posts about religious holiday observance, I would like to share another religious tradition that starts this week: the Christian Lenten season.

In 2018, for Christians in the Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Anglican, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist and several other Western Christian traditions, the season begins on February 14 with Ash Wednesday.

For Christians in the Eastern Orthodox traditions using the Julian calendar, the season begins on February 19 with Clean Monday, but (atypically) the dates on the Julian and Gregorian calendars  The same holds true for 2018 in the Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches, Great Lent (in the latter two churches known as Abiy Tsom) when the Lenten Season begins on February 19 as well.

Normally, the dating for the observance varies markedly among the three traditions. Last year, 2017, the alignment of all three dating systems on the same set of dates was an anomaly.

Ash Wednesday, Clean Monday and the season associated with Lent, Great Lent and Abiy Tsom are all very important holidays in their respective traditions, and you should accommodate employees, students or others who may need to miss activities during at least part of the day in observance.

It should be noted that while many Protestant traditions observe Lent, other Protestant traditions specifically bar the observance of Lent. Some Protestant denominations are divided in their view of the season; for example, some United Church of Christ and Baptist congregations oppose its observance while others support its observance. Additionally, some Protestant denominations, such as the Mennonites, that formerly opposed the observance of Lent have begun to recognize its practice in varying degrees in recent years.

Variations in Dating the Holiday

The season itself runs for 40 days and is called Lent in the Western traditions and Great Lent or the Great Fast in the Eastern traditions.  is a time of introspection for many Christians, and often focuses on questions of mortality and on Jesus' sufferings and sacrifice.  In the Western traditions, Sundays are not counted in the 40 days. In the Eastern Orthodox traditions, Sundays are counted. Within the Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches the Lenten season lasts for 56 days in which period, traditionally only one meal per day is eaten.

To keep in the spirit of these somber subjects, many Christians observe some sort of restrictive behavior, for example many people abstain from alcohol or from attending parties.  In some traditions, observers fast during the day or restrict themselves to one meal only.  For others, observers maintain a vegetarian diet.  For still other traditions, observers give up something they particularly enjoy such as sweets or ice cream.  In many traditions, the fast or abstinence is lifted on the six Sundays during Lent. In Irish tradition, the fast is lifted for St. Patrick's Day (March 17).


Priest placing an ashen cross
on worshiper's forehead

For Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Anglicans, Ash Wednesday is usually observed by attending Mass and having the priest mark one's forehead with ashes that have been blessed.  The ashes are traditionally made from the palm fronds used in the preceding year’s Palm Sunday. The day is often observed as a full fast day.  Ashes have a long traditional association with repentance in these traditions. Many other traditions have modified observance with sermons or other recognition of the holiday.

The holiday itself has its origins in the New Testament, which relates that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting before he began his ministry. While in the desert, Jesus withstood the temptations of Satan.

Pre-Lenten Festivities

Because the tradition of Lent is so somber, many Roman Catholic cultures have embraced a massive celebration on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. This will take placein 2017 on Tuesday, February 28. Many of the festivities begin well before this date as well.

Brazilian Carnaval

The most significant celebration of the day, however, is not in the US at all, but is the Carnaval of Brazil.  The festival begins on the Friday before Ash Wednesday (this year starting on February 24) and runs until Ash Wednesday begins. Most Brazilian cities hold a Carnaval celebration (as do Brazilian communities worldwide).  While Rio is, by far, the largest Brazilian Carnaval celebration, it is far from the only one. Most regions and major cities of Brazil have their own Carnaval, each with its own distinctive traditions. Carnaval in Brazil from 1641 with official status coming in 1724.

Carnaval of Rio

Elaborate floats are part of
the Rio Parade
The largest of the Brazilian celebrations is the Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro. It is claimed that the Rio Carnaval is the largest annual gathering of people in the world; although this claim is often disputed, it is unquestionably the largest annual gathering of people in South America. For example, the Rio Carnival annually attracts over 5 million people over 5 days, with between 2 and 2.3 million per day in the main streets. To put this in perspective, that same year, New Orleans' Mardi Gras hit a record for attendance of 1.2 million, about half that of the average Carnaval single-day street attendance, and roughly the number of just foreign-tourists alone at the Rio Carnaval.

Carnaval in Rio has a major impact on the city's -- and country's -- tourism revenues. In 2017 (the last year with full figures at the time of this blog), Brazil's government estimated that there were roughly 1.1 million foreign tourists (up from 977,000 in 2015 and just 400,000 in 2011), generating US $431.9 million in foreign tourism alone.

Nor is the economic impact simply limited to those watching. There are over competing samba schools at the Rio Carnaval. The samba schools spend US$ 5 million on the parade annually.

Elaborate costumes at the Rio Carnaval
The Carnaval of Rio is also one of the oldest pre-Lenten celebrations, taking place annually since 1641. The Rio Carnaval has at its core the so-called blocos or block parades tied to individual neighborhood blocks. Participants dress in elaborate costumes with a particular theme for each year. Blocos compose original music and dances which they combine with traditional songs and samba dances. Various samba schools prepare all year to compete in dance and music competitions, the most important of which are held at the 90,000-seat Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí for four consecutive nights from 8:00 PM until the following morning. The five winning samba schools then are allowed to parade on the Saturday following Ash Wednesday. 

São Paulo Carnaval

Samba competitors
at the Anhembi Sambodrome
The São Paulo Carnaval, like that in Rio, centers on samba competitions with annual themes. The São Paulo competitions usually last for two nights are held at the 30,000-seat Anhembi Sambodrome. 

The São Paulo Carnaval samba competition takes place on the Friday and Saturday before Lent. Since this occurs before Rio's Carnaval (on Sunday and Monday night), the timing allows attendance for both. 

While the Rio Carnaval may be Brazil's most famous and prestigious, the Säo Paulo Carnaval holds the world record for samba band people gathered in one spot. This took place at Republic Square in 2011 when 1,038 samba people gathered at one time for a massive performance.

Considered the "poor person's alternative" to Rio, the São Paulo Carnaval by design keeps ticket prices at events purposely low to all all Paulistanos to be able to afford attendance.

Trio Elétrico 
at the São Paulo Carnaval
The São Paulo Carnaval is additionally famous for the use of the trio elétrico (also called the carros alegóricos) which are huge floats or trucks. The trio elétrico is fitted out with sound systems which amplify the performances of the singers who stand on their roof. 

Bahian Carnaval

The trio elétrico is the central focus of Carnaval in the state of Bahia, and indeed it was in Bahia that the trio elétrico was first introduced.

 Juliana Ribeiro with Amor e Paixão's Carnival Trio
atop a trio elétrico at the Salvador Carnaval
The largest of the Carnavals in Bahia is in the city of Salvador, but most cities in the state have their own version. The festivities throughout the state last roughly for a week, each day going on for 16 hours. Salvador's Carnaval is primarily a Brazilian only event, with 600,000 tourists of whom only 10% are foreign.

The Bahian Carnaval has many elements that are quite separate from the Roman Catholic Church. These focus on the Afro-Brazilian afoxés who perform puxada do ijexá drumming that honors the orixás  (dieties of the Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomblé and  Santería). Because of the influence of the Afro-Brazilian religions, the music and dance of the Bahian Carnavals differs significantly from that of those in Rio and São Paulo, with significantly greater African influences.

Carnaval in Pernambuco

Throughout the state of Pernambuco, cities and towns hold there own variety of Carnavals. The two largest of these are the Recife and Olinda Carnavals. Pernambuco Carnavals also differ musically from the rest of Brazil. As in Bahia, the celebrations last a week; however, unlike Bahia (or Rio or  São Paulo), the Recife and Olinda Carnavals have no group competitions. The music played and dancing performed in Pernambuco is unique to the state.

Frevo dancer
There are two main varieties: the frevo and the maracatu. Frevo is an intense, fast-paced form that is supposed to make performers (and viewers) feel as if the ground beneath them is boiling (the word frevo has its origins in the Portuguese word ferver meaning “to boil”).  Frevo danccers are called passistas, and they are famous for their athleticism, their endurance and especially their acrobatic dance moves based on the Brazilian martial art of capoeira

The music of frevo has a polka-like element to it and is played largely by trumpets, trombones, tubas and saxophones accompanied by percussion.  

Maracatu de nação percussionists
Maracatu is actually the name of two dance forms unique to Pernambuco: maracatu de nação and the maracatu rural. Maracatu de nação (national maracatu) has its roots in the Brazilian slave community when slaves would crown “Kings of the Congo” as leaders within their communities. The accompanying investiture ceremony was heavily influenced by the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, and the influence of the dance and music continue to carry rich symbolism from that religion.  Maracatu de nação is primarily based on Afro-Brazilian drumming with groups of up to 100 percussionists performing.

Many of the percussions instruments used are unique to Pernambuco. One of the most notable is these is the afoxé, a gourd rattle with threaded beads. The Afro-Brazilian drums too are unique to the area. Among the most notable of these drums is the alfaia (sometimes simply called the (maracutu drum). Alfaias come in a variety of sizes, but all have roping along their sides that the drummers use to tighten or loosen the drum head to give differing pitches. Other special drums include caixa-de-guerra (“war snare-drum”) and the tarol (a somewhat thin snare drum). Additionally, percussionists use agbês (special gourds filled with beads), mineiros (metal tubes filled with dried seeds) and cowbells. The singing that accompanies maracatu de nação is a unique call-and-response form with a male caller and female chorus.

Caboclo de lança  
The maracatu rural more closely resembles the sort of music performed elsewhere in Brazil. It combines elements of the maracatu de nação with brass instruments (especially trombones) and musical styles from elsewhere in Brazil. The name means “maracutu of the countryside” because maracatu rural grew out of the countryside among sugar plantation workers.   Maracatu rural traditionally includes dancers in special costumes such as the caboclo de lança warrior.

Carnaval de Olinda 

The Carnaval de Olinda, the largest in Pernambuco, is cited by many in Brazil (especially those in Brazil's North and Interior) as the "real" Carnaval. While this can be easily debated, what is less subject to controversy is that the Olinda Carnaval is Brazil's most colorful.  It is also the only major Carnaval event in Brazil in which most of the major events take place during the daylight hours rather than in the evening.

Meeting of the Giant Puppets, Olinda
Annually, the Olinda Carnaval host 500 group with over 200 events.  The most famous Olinda Carnaval event is the "Meeting of the Giant Puppets." These are massive puppets standing about 3.5 meters (12 feet) tall. The giant puppets depict political figures, sports heroes and folk characters.

The Carnaval de Olinda averages 2.7 million visitors a year with annual revenues of around US $150 million, making it the most important economic event in the region.

Recife Carnaval

The Recife Carnaval holds the world record for the most people in a parade. The Guinness Book of World Records verified that in  2013, Recife's Galo da Madrugada parade reached 2.5 million participants (http://www.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,galo-da-madrugada-publico-estimado-de-2-5-milhoes,995344). The figure of 2.5 million participants actually marching in the parade is all the more staggering, considering that this was a million more people than the population of the entire city proper at the time (1.5 million).

Recife’s 2013 Galo da Madrugada parade
set the world record for most people in a parade   
While the 2013 record was remarkable, the annual influx of non-resident visitors at the Recife Carnaval is not. Indeed, even in the midst of the Zika outbreak, official estimates placed the number of non-resident visitors for the Recife Carnaval in 2016 at just under 1 million people.

As could be expected from the numbers attending, the centerpiece of the Recife Carnaval is its parade of the Galo da Madrugada (in English, "Rooster of the Early Hours"). That said, while the Recife Carnaval dates back for centuries, the first Galo da Madrugada took place only in 1978, a relative newcomer on the Brazilian Carnaval scene for such a major crowd generator. The parade is the culmination of an all-night party which concludes in the "early hours" of the next morning with the parade that follows a four-kilometer path through the center of the city.

 Recife's Noite dos Tambores Silenciosos
Although like other Pernambuco Carnavals, the Recife Carnaval does not host samba contest, Recife averages 3000 separate shows with 430 groups. Most unique to the Recife Carnaval is its strong emphasis on the Afro-Brazilian tradition. Chief among the events celebrating the Afro-Brazilian tradition is the Noite dos Tambores Silenciosos (Night of the Silent Drums) honoring the 1000’s of slaves who died in prisons before abolition. As midnight approaches, the drumming reaches a frenzy and then -- at the stroke of midnight -- stops abruptly and everyone in complete silence raises their hands at the same time to honor the martyrs of these sad chapter in Brazilian history.

Teresina's Carnaval holds the world record
for floats in a parade
Carnaval de Teresina

The Teresina Carnaval in the state of Piauí is a relative newcomer on the Brazilian Carnaval scene, beginning only in 1940.  The Carnaval de Teresina, though, like the Recife Carnaval, a record-holder in Guinness Book of World Records, in this case for the most number of floats in a parade. The Teresina Carnaval first set the record in February of 2012, a record it has maintained ever since (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-parade-of-floats/). Guinness verified a total off 343 floats paraded in the Corso do Zé Pereira. The parade runs for 6-½ hours along a 7.3 kilometer (just over 4.5 mile) route.

Other Major Brazilian Carnavals

Virtually every city in Brazil holds some sort of Carnaval. Space does not permit listing all of these, but some of the other more notable ones include:

• Carnaval Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais one of oldest, with today’s giving great attention on college students
• Carnaval de Vitória/Carnaval Capixaba in Espírito Santo (one week before Rio), sadly the subject of attacks by gunmen shooting into the crowd this year in 2017
• Carnaval de Manaus in Amazonas, arguably as famous for its free entrance and reduced-price beer stalls as for its floats and samba
• Carnaval de Uberlândia/ Uberfolia in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais (which began as a Carnaval specifically for Afro-Brazilian samba dancers who were discriminated against in the early years of the Rio Carnaval
• Carnaval de Magia/Carnaval de Florianópolis in Santa Catarina features many beach celebrations, and most famously the LGBT-centered Praia Mole Carnaval

* Carnaval de Brasilia, the capital is not a major Carnaval center and yet this is a growing attacking, with over 1.5 million people participating in 2017 (and increase of 58% from 2016)

For more on the Brazilian Carnaval, see

United States: Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in New Orleans
The best known pre-Lenten celebration in the United States is the New Orleans' Mardi Gras.  In French, Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" and  evolved from the French tradition of indulging on the last day before Lent, particularly eating fatty things which traditionally would be given up for Lent.  

New Orleans Mardi Gras

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras activities run roughly for two weeks, culminating on Mardi Gras day. There are several local parades and a major central parade in which Carnival krewes parade on elaborate floats while wearing elaborate costumes. During the parade, participants throw special coins and necklaces of plastic beads to the spectators. Several special parades elect various monarchs. The most important of these are the Zulu King elected by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the King of Carnival elected by the Rex Krewe. Several older Krewe kings were disbanded when they refused to comply with anti-segregation laws that the United States began to enforce in 1991.

Mardi Gras has been celebrated in Louisiana since at least 1699, with official New Orleans celebrations dating to 1703.

Mardi Gras is not limited to New Orleans, however, with other notable US Mardi Gras celebrations in other Louisiana cities. Lafayette's Mardi Gras in the center of Louisiana's Cajun cultural region is the state's second largest, attracting 250,000 people annually. Other notable Mardi Gras celebrations take place in  Baton Rouge, Houma, Shreveport, New Roads, Kaplan, Monroe, Thibadaux, Lake Charles, and Alexandria.

Several other cities in the United States hold well-attended Mardi Gras events outside of Louisiana as well. The oldest Mardi Gras after New Orleans in the United States is actually that held in Pensacola, Florida, which dates to 1874 The largest of these is in Mobile, Alabama. Vicksburg, Mississippi holds a major Mardi Gras Ball along with its annual parade. Eureka Springs in the Ozark region of Arkansas began holding Mardi Gras events after the destruction in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and has continued the tradition ever since under the "Krewe of Krazo" (which is Ozark backwards). Other notable cities with Mardi Gras events include Portland, Oregon; La Crosse, Wisconsin; Saint Louis, Missouri; Port Arthur, Galveston and Austin, all in Texas.

For more about Mardi Gras, please see


The Caribbean: Trinidad Mas

Carnival celebrations are also held in many Caribbean islands. The most famous of these is the one held at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, with its associated steel drum competition. Carnival is celebrated as well elsewhere in the Caribbean including Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Haiti, Belize, Cuba, St. Lucia, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Carnival celebrations are also held in some cities in Colombia and Honduras. The Caribbean communities of Notting Hill in London as well as those in Brooklyn, New York and Toronto, Ontario also celebrate an annual Caribbean Carnival.

While Carnival is celebrated to varying degrees throughout much of the Caribbean, the biggest of these celebrations is the Trinidad Carnival in Port-of-Spain. Trinidad Carnival begins in January and lasts until Ash Wednesday; in other words, the festivities can last for months. The entire festival climaxes with the week before Ash Wednesday with Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday), J’Ouvert (also called Carnival Monday, with the name from the French Creole jour ouvert or break of dawn) and on Tuesday with Mas (short for “masquerade”).

Steel pan player
Trinidad Carnival has its own unique traditions. These include the famous steel pan competitions held in the weeks leading up to Dimanche Gras. Other music competitions include those in soca, calypso and rapso (the combination of rapping with calypso). Additionally, there are stickfighting and limbo competitions.
Man Feteing at Trinidad Mas

Throughout Trinidad Carnival spectators and performers alike are encourage to fête, that is to burst into a free-form revelry of dancing, singing or whatever else may be inspired.

The Trinidad Carnival hosts numerous competitions for parades, costumes and music. On Dimanche Gras, the Calypso King and Queen are chosen in a costume competition. They are then the central figure in their own special float in the following parades. J’Ouvert features people dressing in politically-barbed satiric costumes 

Jab Jabs
A J’Ouvert King and Queen are likewise chosen for the most politically astute commentary. J’Ouvert is also the day in which one sees running through the streets the famous “Jab-Jabs” (people dressed as red, blue and black devils with pitchforks).

Moko Jumbies
Mas itself is marked by the most elaborate of costumes, usually enhanced with body paint and intricate wire extensions as well as “Mas boots” which are worn both as decoration and to ensure comfort during the long marches of the parades. Among the most distinctive traditional characters depicted for Mas are the Moko Jumbies, stilt walkers representing protecting spirits (Moko was an African god whose worship was brought over by slaves and "jumbie" is Caribbean patois for ghost).  Other traditional characters are the Midnight Robber (who speaks in "Robber Talk" of exaggeratedly boastful claims), the Bookman (a devil with a book wearing special gown with a massive headmask with horns and a frightening stare) and various clowns and animals. Large cash prizes are awarded to winners on the central performance stage for best costume and music.

For more on the Trinidad celebrations, please see

India: Goa Carnival

The Indian state of Goa  also has annual celebrations for Carnival (also spelled interchangeably as Carnaval) throughout the state. Goa was a Portuguese colony through 1961 and  when the local cities and towns are taken over by the rule of the legendary King Momo. The largest of these is held in Panaji with a celebration that runs for three days and three nights.

Goa Carnival
The Goa Carnaval in 2013 begins on February 9 and runs through February 12. The Goa Carnaval has taken place annually for roughly 500 years, making it arguably the oldest annual Pre-Lenten celebration outside of Europe. For most of its 500-year-old history, the Goa Carnival was celebrated primarily by Goa's large Catholic population (who make up just under 30% of state's population). In recent years, however, the Goa Carnaval has become a major draw for tourists from all over India as well as an increasing number of tourist from abroad.

The Goa Carnaval was cancelled in 2012. Sadly, in that year the Great Carnival Parade to the city of Panaji (formerly Panjim) which was scheduled this year for Saturday February 18 was cancelled following a terrible accident earlier in the day in which a school bus fell into the Kalvi River killing eight people, including five children. To read more on this accident please see:

Other Carnival celebrations in 2012 did Goa did go on in the cities of Margoa, Ponda, Vasco and Mapusa.

The Goa Carnival parade at Goa's capitall city of  Panaji is by far the largest event. The parade usually runs for three or more hours Parades and feasts are also held in most other Goan cities. All of the events feature a mix of traditional feasts (usually centered on seafood), dancing and music. Panaji and several other locations hold firework displays as well. The music and dance of the Goan Carnival is unique to the state, blending influences of pre-Portuguese and post-Portuguese influences that over the centuries have blended tabla, ghumot and mridanga drums along with oboe-like shehnai mixed with Portuguese-style mandolins and violins. Dancing too is a blend of subcontinental and European styles. Sambas are particularly part of the celebratory dances.

Angolan Carnaval

As a former Portuguese colony, Angola in southwest Africa has a well-established Carnaval tradition, with the Luanda Carnaval in the capital city dating back to 1857.
Luanda Carnaval

Angola, in fact, has added much to the Portuguese traditions. This is because samba dancing, the mainstay of Brazil's Carnaval competitions, is actually taken from Angolan roots. The word samba with an "a" in Portuguese comes from the word semba with an "e" in the Angolan language of Kimbundu. Semba in Kimbundu means "to invoke the spirits of the ancestors" which was done through music and dance. The word semba itself comes from the verb masemba which means to touch bellies. Slaves taken from Angola to Brazil beginning in the early 1600's took their religious tradition with them. The semba/samba tradition evolved from there.

Cape Verde Carnaval

Carnaval de São Vicente, Cape Verde
Another former Portuguese colony with a Carnaval tradition is the West African island nation of Cape Verde (Cabo Verde in Portuguese).  Three of the country's 10 islands hold an annual Carnaval. 

The most dazzling of the Cape Verde Carnavals is in Mindelo on São Vicente but a strong competition exists with its main competitor in Rebeira Brava on São Nicolau. The saying goes that "São Vicente has the show while São Nicolau has the heart." That said, most attendees agree that the Carnaval de Praia in the capital is the smallest of the three. 

East Timor Carnaval

East Timor was a Portuguese colony until 1975 when it was taken over by Indonesia (which owns the
Dili Carnaval, East Timor
western half of the island). From 1975 until its independence from Indonesia in 2002, the Roman Catholic Portuguese tradition was suppressed by the Muslim-majority population. After independence, the country began to reach out to Brazil to rebuild its traditions. This resulted in the first state-sponsored Carnaval in 2008 in the capital Dili. The Carnaval has been growing ever since.  

Polish American Pączki Day and Polish Tłusty Czwartek

In Southeast Michigan, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Chicago and other areas with large Polish-American populations, Polish Americans celebrate “Pączki Day” after the Polish tradition of eating filled doughnuts called pączki. Pronounced “poonch-kee,” pączki are traditionally filled with prune, plum or rosehip jelly, though more modern interpretations include strawberry, apricot, raspberry, lemon and other jellies. A recipe for traditional pączki can be found at:


 Incidentally, pączki is the plural of the word, a single pastry is called a pączek 

Pączki Day is a major event for many local Polish-American communities. In Evanston, Illinois, an annual pączki-eating contest takes place to see who can eat the most of the pastries (with the contest held on the weekend closest to the appropriate Tuesday). Arguably the strongest tradition of celebrating Paczki Day is in the heavily Polish-American city of Hamtramck (a city with so strong a Polish tradition that the late Pope John Paul II even visited the city). For more on the Hamtramck Pączki Day, please see

While Pączki Day is celebrated in southeast Michigan, Chicago and Buffalo on the same Tuesday as Mardi Gras, the Polish equivalent in Poland itself is called Tłusty Czwartek actually means Fat Thursday. This is because in Poland itself, the celebration starts on the Thursday preceding Ash Wednesday (February 7 for 2013) to leave enough of time to celebrate the Polish Karnawał (Carnival). Shrove Tuesday itself is marked not by eating pączki but rather herring and is sometimes called “Herring Day” or Śledzik.

Lithuania: Užgavėnės

Lašininis burnt in effigy 
The Lithuanian Pre-Lenten festival is know as Užgavėnės. The festival centers around a play battle enacted out by Lašininis (meaning "Fatso") who symbolizes winter and Kanapinis (or the Hemp Man) who stands for Spring. Kanapinis is always victorious and the battle concludes with Lašininis being burnt in effigy. Throughout the battle, people go through the crowds dressed as witches, ghosts and other characters.
Varškės spurgos 
The traditional treat for the holiday is a pancake alternately called sklindziai or blynai. Also popular are the fried cakes known as spurgos. Spurgos differ from their Polish pączki counterpart in that they may be filled not only with fruit (as in Poland) or made with no fruit but a cottage cheese dough for a dough only version known varškės spurgos. A recipe for varškės spurgos can be found at Celtnet Recipes at  http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-varskes-spurgos

For more on Užgavėnės, please see http://lithuanianmha.org/holiday-traditions/uzgavenes/.

Italy: Carnevale and the Battle of the Oranges

Masks are the hallmark of the Carnevale of Venice

In Italy, the Carnevale of Venice technically begins on the Saturday before and ends on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. In reality, the Carnevale of Venice runs for weeks. It is a major celebration with masked parties, and is probably the oldest annual celebration of the season, having started in 1268. Roughly 3 million visitors descend on Venice each year for the celebration. Central to the Venice Carnevale are its elaborate masks and ach year, a competition takes place for the best mask.

You can read more about Carnivale on the official website at


Another famous Italian Carnival-related tradition takes place annually in the city of Ivrea with its “Battle of the Oranges.” Since the Middle Ages, the people of Ivrea have participated in a three-day pre-Lenten battle among its citizens.  For centuries, the combatants used beans, which changed in time to fruit and has been since the 19th century exclusively oranges. You can read more about the Battle of the
Oranges at  http://www.carnevalediivrea.it/english/battaglia.asp

Ivrea Battle of the Oranges

Belgium: Carnival of Binche

Many cities throughout Belgium have Carnival celebrations. These include those at the Walloon cities of La Calamine, Nivelles and Malmedy, the Flemish cities of Heist and Aalst, and the city of Eupen in the German-speaking region.  By far the most famous of these, though, is the Carnival of Binche, which was named a UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage Masterpiece in 2010.

Gilles at the Carnival of Binche
The Carnival of Binche dates to the 1300’s, making it among the oldest continuously held annual celebrations in Europe. Activities begin seven weeks before Carnival week and climax with the arrival of the Gilles on Shrove Tuesday. Roughly 1000 boys and men parade through the streets in the costume of a Gille: linen suits in the Belgian national colors with hunchbacks stuffed with straw, elaborate white lace cuffs and collars, bells hanging from their belts, wooden clogs (called sabots) and wax masks. Some also wear feathered hats. The Gilles carry ramons – special branches for warding off evil spirits. The appearance of the Gilles begins at 4:00 AM and lasts most of the day. In the morning they parade to the town all. In the afternoon, the Gilles remove their masks and parade through the city carrying ramon branch baskets filled with blood oranges that they throw at the spectators.

For more on the Carnival of Binche please see

German Catholic Regions:  Fasching and Karneval

Several pre-Lenten traditions are carried on the the Catholic German-speaking regions. Technically, what the Germans call the "silly season" (die närrische Saison) begins on 11-11 at 11:11 AM, the celebrations being in earnest only after Epiphany (January 6) and intensify in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday. 

What's in A Name: Fasching? Karneval?

The name of the silly season's main event varies from region to region thoughout the German-speaking world.

In much of the southern German-speaking regions, the Alemannic German term Fasching or some variation of the word  is used to denote the Carnival season.  Fasching is actually the word used in Austria, Bavaria and Berlin. In Baden, the Alsace region of France, most of the German cantons of Switzerland as well as the Amish and Mennonite communities in the United States, people call the celebration Fastnacht or Fasnacht. In Franconia as well as in the city of Mainz, people use the word Fosnat or Fasenacht, while in Swabia people call the same holiday Fasnet. In Luxembourg, the holiday is known as Fuesend.

In much of the north, the Latin-based word Karneval is used. Karneval is the name of the holiday in Cologne, which is the largest Carnival-related event in Europe. Karneval is also the name used in the Rheinland and the Pfalz. This is also term for the major carnival cities of Bonn, Düsseldorf, Eschweil and Aachen.

Finally, in Brandenburg and Saxony, the names Fasching and Karneval are typically used interchangeably.

Kölner Karneval

The Kölner Karneval or Cologne Carnival is the largest Carnival gathering not only in Germany, but in the whole of Europe. Unlike most other carnivals worldwide, the central culmination of the Kölner Karneval comes not on Fat Tuesday(Weiberfastnacht), but rather on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. This is called Rosenmontag or Rose Monday and consists of major parades, parties and notably major stage events and performances.

Die Dreigistirn
Each year at the  Kölner Karneval, three Dreigestirn are named. The Dreigestirn form the Karneval royalty and are comprised of the Jungfrau (Young Woman or Virgin and called "Her Loveliness"), the Prinz (Prince, called "His Craziness") and the Bauer (the Farmer, called Seine Deftigkeit or "His Hugeness" which refers to being hefty in size but in impolite terms has a ribald connotation). All three people are always men, including the Jungfrau who is a man dressed as a woman (the only exception being during the Nazi era, where the authorities intolerance of homosexuality outlawed the cross-dressing).

For more on the German celebrations, see


Luxembourg: Fuesend and Karneval

In Luxembourg, the pre-Lenten holiday season is known as Fuesend.  Throughout the Grand-Duchy, parades and parties are held on the Tuesday before Lent begins. 

The commune of Pétange is the home of the Grand-Duchy's largest pre-Lenten Karneval celebration. Annually hosting a calvalcade with roughly 1200 participants and thousand of participants, the official name is Karneval Gemeng Péiteng or Kagepe (the initials in Luxembourgish are pronounced Ka, Ge and Pe).

The Stréimännchen over the Remich Bridge
The town of Remich holds a three-day-long celebration. Remich is notable for two special events in addition to its parades. The first of these is the Stréimännchen, which is the burning of a male effigy from the Remich bridge that crosses the Moselle River separating the Grand Duchy from Germany. The Stréimännchen symbolizes the burning away of winter. The other special event at the Remich Fuesend celebrations is the Buergbrennen or bonfire that closes the celebration.

Like Remich, the town of Esch-sur-Alzette also holds a three-day celebration.  Other major Fuesend parades in Luxembourg are held in the towns of Diekirch and Differdange.

Greece: Greek Orthodox Celebrations

As noted above, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Ash Wednesday is not observed. Instead, Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Clean Monday as the start of what is called Great Lent (the equivalent holiday but so-named to differentiate the holiday from another observance called Winter Lent which corresponds to the Western tradition of Advent).  

Greek Orthodox adherents began celebrating Greek Orthodox Carnival with Triodion (which began in 2017 on February 5) and ending on Clean Monday, February 27).   The largest of the celebrations is Tsiknopempti or "Burnt Thursday" which in 2017 was on February 16 with two weekends of Carnival the Tsiknopempti Weekend (February 17-19) and the Greek Carnival Weekend February 24-26).  Annually, the largest Greek Orthodox celebration of Carnival is centered at Patras, Greece’s third largest city. The Carnival at Patras often reflects current social themes, and is at times used as an outlet for social protest in some years. In other years, there is no social statement at all.

Patras Children's Carnival
In all years, though, the Patras Carnival includes a separate “Children’s Carnival”  with thousands of costumed children on parade through the streets.

Bourboulia domino robes and masks
Another unique feature of the Patras Carnival is the Bourboulia, a formal ball in which women come in identical costumes – the so-called domino robes and masks – and ask men, usually uncostumed, to dance with them without their dance partner knowing who is behind the disguise. Other Greek sites also have Carnival celebrations, including annual celebrations on the islands of Corfu and of Crete. To learn more about Greek Carnival traditions see

For more specifically on  the Patras Carnival, you can go to their official website at:


There are many more Carnival-related celebrations around the world. Feel free to share some of your own, or to add to what has been shared here.

As for the religious aspects of Ash Wednesday and the related observances, as always, this post is meant only to be informational. Please share your own views, and note that this post in no way indicates a point of view on what is or is not appropriate religious observance.

Further Reading:

For more on some of the general religious traditions, here are a few websites:

For Roman Catholic traditions, see
For Eastern Orthodox traditions see

For Coptic Lent traditions, see

For Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo traditions, see

 Clip Art Sources

Praying woman with ashen cross on forehead: http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Ash_Wednesday.htm

Lent image: Christ the King Anglican Church, Lansing, Michigan: http://ctklansing.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/lent-new.jpg

Priest placing ashen cross on worshiper's forehead: Life Assays: http://bobritzema.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/ash-wednesday.jpg

Carnival cartoon clipart: Clip Art Today: http://www.clipartoday.com/_thumbs/022/Celebrations/annual_carnival_188328_tnb.png

Rio parade with King Kong: http://blog.otel.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Rio-Carnaval.jpg

Rio Carnaval elaborate costume: Travelvivi.com http://www.travelvivi.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/rio_carnival06.jpg

Samba competitors at the Anhembi Sambodrome: Sydney Morning Herald:

Trio Elétrico at the São Paulo Carnaval: http://im.r7.com/outros/files/2C92/94A4/2E64/8A75/012E/7830/7A6E/725D/carna%201-tl-201100302.jpg

Juliana Ribeiro with Amor e Paixão's Carnival Trio: http://www.bahia-online.net/Carnival.htm

Afoxé: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afoxé

Alfaias: http://www.brasilcultura.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/afoxes10.jpg

Frevo dancer: Está com tudo blogsite: http://estacomtudo.blogspot.com/2010/11/frevo_12.html

Maracatu de nação percussionists: Oficina do Barulho: http://www.oficinadobarulho.com/images/camale_o.jpg

Meeting of the Giant Puppets, Olinda: http://laprensa-sandiego.org/featured/brazilian-northeast-celebrates-carnival-the-old-fashioned-way/

Recife’s 2013 Galo da Madrugada parade set the world record for most people in a parade: http://fotografia.folha.uol.com.br/galerias/13608-bloco-galo-da-madrugada-em-recife

Teresina's Carnaval hold the world record for floats in a parade: http://www.jfagora.com/qual-melhor-ze-pereira-de-teresina-timon-ou-o-de-jose-de-freitas.html

Steel drum player: http://serturista.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Theaterspektakel_2010_2010-09-04_19-02-50.jpg

Man Feteing in Trinidad: Feteing in Trindad, How to Play Mas: http://www.rishisankar.com/Parties/Trinidad-Carnival-2005/Carnival-Tuesday-2005-23rd/S3600163/202578866_XhHuH-XL.jpg

Jab Jabs: http://www.tntisland.com/carnivalcharacters.html

Moko Jumbies: http://www.tntisland.com/carnivalcharacters.html

Map of Goa: http://www.jigneshbapna.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/goa-map.gif

Goa Carnival: http://www.carnivalgoa.com/

Carnaval de São Vicente, Cape Verde: http://www.caboverdesite.com/city/sao-vicente/sobre-a-ilha/ilha-de-sao-vicente/

Dili Carnaval, East Timor: http://noticias.sapo.tl/portugues/foto/1299406/

Lašininis burnt in effigyhttp://lithuanianmha.org/holiday-traditions/uzgavenes/

Varškės spurgos: http://laisvalaikisvirtuveje.blogspot.com/2012/01/varskes-spurgos-su-obuoliu-idaru.html

Venice Carnevale masks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Venice_Carnival_-_Masked_Lovers_(2010).jpg

Ivrea Battle of the Oranges: The World's Dirtiest Festivals:  http://jetsetta.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Battle-of-the-Oranges-Ivrea-Italy.jpg

Gilles at the Carnival of Binche: Photograph by Marie-Claire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Binche_-_Les_Gilles.jpg

Die Dreigistirn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dreigestirn_72.jpg

The Stréimännchen over the Remich Bridge: http://www.lequotidien.lu/le-pays/42292.html

Patras Children's Carnival: http://www.1000lonelyplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/childrens-carnival1.jpg

Bourboulia domino robes and masks: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/el/7/79/Bourboulia_6.jpg

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