Carnival is a name for any kind of revelry or festivity. By tradition, it is the season
just before Lent celebrated by merrymaking, processions, dancing, and feasting. During
Carnival week masked balls, processions of decorated floats through the streets, costume
parades, and feasting generally mark the celebration.
The word "carnival" probably comes from the medieval Latin carnelevarium, meaning to take away or remove meat (in the past, Catholics were forbidden to eat meat during the 40 days of Lent). The first day of the carnival season varies from country to country. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, from the custom of using up meat and fats in the home before Lent, here in Spain is Fat Thursday.
Carnival is celebrated in the winter season. For many Catalans in
Barcelona this was one of the best demonstrations of their freedom, to show that the city
was theirs again. (It was forbidden to celebrate Carnival in Barcelona between 1936 and
1980, begun during the time of General Franco).
In many countries carnival is celebrated on the streets and people make big colourful processions and lots of noise. Some people ride on floats and have fun. They throw confetti and paper streamers at one another. Carnival is celebrated in cities, in the country and in villages, but it is most popular in the big towns and cities. It is celebrated by painting faces, or wearing masks, as well as a disguise or fancy dress costume. people go on parades and sometimes organise parties.
Isabel Torres and Carlota Catalán,
Class 3, St. Paul's School, Barcelona
In Spain there are Shrovetide (Carnival) festivities noteworthy for their brillance and spectacularity such as Cadiz, with its choruses, fancy-dress processions, jokes, disguises and float parades.
In the face of those theories which bestow an outright pagan character upon Shrovetide, tracing its entimology back to the "currus nevalis" who used to take part in the Roman Isis Feast, the studies carried out by Julio Caro Baroja led him to the conclusion that "Shrovetide" (Spanish Carnival) was the offspring of Christianity. To be exact, in the abscence of the concept of Lent it would not exist as it has done since the dark and distant European Middle Ages.
Barcelona's Carnival is not very important, there is no central parade - individual districts organise and hold their own. At night-time, during the week before Ash Wednesday the streets are full of people dressed up and many parties are held (the most popular of which is usually held in the Spanish Village - Poble Espanyol - on the Saturday night). During the day children's carnivals are organised and most schools let the children go in fancy dress on the Friday before Ash Wednesday.
Vilanova i la Geltrú and Sitges hold very big Carnivals and very wild parties.The floats and processions are well worth a visit.
The Barcelona-Sitges International Antique Car Rally is held about this time. The festival consists of covering the route in cars built not later than 1920. The participants dress up in costumes of the period. Not only do Spanish automobile clubs take part in the rally, but those from France and Andorra as well.
The main places in Spain for Carnival celebrations are Cádiz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Cádiz: In Cadiz the carnival procedures include a spirited procession, contests to chose the best singers and comedians, fancy dress balls, the selection of the queen of the festivities and fireworks. The main attraction is the procession which is held the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Replicas of the original carnival celebrations, consisting of parades with floats and "murgas" or comic bands and the singing of the island songs through the streets, together with many folklore contests. The beginning of Lent, and therefore the end of the celebrations, is signified by the burial of a sardine.
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