|Praying woman with |
ashen cross on her forehead
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 2021, for Christians in the Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Anglican, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist and several other Western Christian traditions, the season begins on February 17 with Ash Wednesday.
For Christians in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Coptic traditions using the Julian calendar), the season begins on Monday, March 15, 2021 with Clean Monday. The same holds true for 2021 in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches, when the Lenten Season begins Abiy Tsom on March 15 as well.
|Priest placing an ashen cross|
on worshiper's forehead
Venice's Carnevale cancelled as did the Binche, Belgium Carnival. Likewise all of Germany's Fasching and Karneval and Luxembourg's Fuesend celebrations are cancelled.
Brazil's main Carnavals were all first delayed, then (by the end of January) cancelled.
New Orleans has not "cancelled" 2021 Mardi Gras events but it has curtailed most events, after it received widespread criticism for the "super spreader" 2020 Mardi Gras. Essentially New Orleans is having a virtual Mardi Gras for 2021
Most other US celebrations -- including Eureka Springs Arkansas' Krazo Krewe, and the Mardi Gras events of Vicksburg, Mississippi; Biloxi, Mississippi; Beaumont, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; Lafayette, Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida -- have totally cancelled for 2021.
Likewise Trinidad's Mas was cancelled fr 2021 after hosting the event in 2020, receiving considerable criticism.
Cape Verde cancelling Carnival in 2021, deciding only on February 4 to do so.
NO COVID Cancellations
|Elaborate floats are part of |
the Rio Parade
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.
|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.
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.
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|
|Caboclo de lança|
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|
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.
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
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|
|Teresina's Carnaval holds the world record|
for floats in a parade
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 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)
Attendance figures for 2017 http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-business/brazil-registers-surge-in-2017-carnival-attendance/
|Mardi Gras in New Orleans|
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, Beaumont, Galveston and Austin, all in Texas.
|Steel pan player|
|Man Feteing at Trinidad Mas|
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
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).
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.
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.
Cape Verde Carnaval
|Carnaval de São Vicente, Cape Verde|
East Timor Carnaval
|Dili Carnaval, East Timor|
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
|Lašininis burnt in effigy|
|Masks are the hallmark of the Carnevale of Venice|
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|
|Gilles at the Carnival of Binche|
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.
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.
For more on the German celebrations, see
Luxembourg: Fuesend and Karneval
|The Stréimännchen over the Remich Bridge|
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 and ending on Clean Monday. The largest of the celebrations is Tsiknopempti or "Burnt Thursday" with two weekends of Carnival: the Tsiknopempti Weekend and the Greek Carnival Weekend. 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|
|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 Lutheran traditions, see
For Coptic Lent 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
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/
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 effigy: http://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