Just about every country in the world has their own unique festivals and carnivals – many of which are held in the run-up to Ash Wednesday (Lent) where over-indulgence and hedonism are the order of the day!
Rio Carnival, Brazil, 28 February – 4 March 2014
Larger than life Rio de Janeiro promises that the 2014 Rio Carnevale will be bigger and better than ever! Still one of the largest and most flamboyant carnivals in the world, Rio boasts lively dance displays and fresh new music. Samba music takes center stage as bans entertain crowds of millions. Participants don colourful headdresses and exquisite costumes at this fast-paced one-of-a-kind event. Don’t miss the fireworks of the Champions Parade, the formal Carnival Ball as well as street bands and entertainers bedecked in full carnival attire.
The Carnival of Venice, Italy, to 4 March 2014
Hedonism has ruled the Carnevale di Venezia since 1162, where locals and travellers alike dress up in decadent 18th century inspired costumes, including masquerade-style masks. It’s the perfect excuse to flounce along Venice’s alleys and waterways. And because you’re masked, anonymity rules! And if you’re connected you can party the night away at one of the Carnival Balls, where the rich and famous hang out.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, Caribbean, 3 March 2014
Trinidad’s Port of Spain sways to the sultry beat of steel drums and enlivening calypso music come March-time (pictured above) – aided by the odd tot of rum! During the days before Lent, locals and travellers alike really let loose for this centuries-old carnival, which was established by West African slaves. They would don colorful costumes and masks, beat pans and generally mock their French rulers. Join in the masquerade where feather boas and lashing of sequins rule!
Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA, 4 March 2014
The run up to Fat Tuesday features more parades than is humanly possible to attend, and along with the main Mardi Gras event, it retains an air of debauchery (in a good way!) The diverse culture of New Orleans infuses the music, food and events. There are parades and jazz sessions which are suitable for the whole family. And don’t forget your costume, preferably made from gold, green and purple.
Dunkerque Carnival, to 22 March 2014
Get involved with Dunkerque-Dunes de Flandre which is held as a special celebration in honour of the local fishermen, before the set sail to catch hauls of cod around the dangerous waters of Iceland. The tow comes alive with the vibrant sounds of traditional fifes, brass and drums. This is undoubtedly one of the most authentic celebrations on the French calendar. Locals dress in the classic striped Breton tops along with yellow jackets. The lively atmosphere of the Dunkerque Carnival was established during the 18th century and still lasts for two months. It culminates with the Sporting Ball and finally, the Spring Ball on 22 March.
Crop Over, Barbados, Summer 2014
Time your visit to Barbados in June, July or August and get to witness one of the oldest carnivals in the Caribbean. Crop Over was established in the 1780s and celebrates the country’s sugar harvest. Watch as a King and Queen of the Crop are crowned which is hard-fought thanks to the kudos the title brings. Expect several weeks of calypso competitions, which fuse extravagant dancing, soca performances and intense vocal encouragement to immerse yourself in the party. There are a multitude of stalls selling sumptuous Bajan cuisine. The grand finale - Kadooment Day – is held on the first Monday each August where spectacular processions laden with extravagantly costumed and body painted dancers are the order of the day.
Notting Hill Carnival, UK, 24 – 25 August 2014
Who says the British don’t know how to party?! Give us a bank holiday weekend, some warm weather and a sultry Caribbean beat and we’ll show you! Over a million people attend the UK’s most lively and colourful festival which has been held in the London borough of Notting Hill since 1965. The biggest street festival in Europe packs over 2 miles of entertainers, singers and food vendors, all with a distinct Caribbean atmosphere - enjoy the west-Indian flair where the outfits dare to bear. Don’t miss the traditional bank Holiday Monday parade which includes an energetic array of dancers, entertainers and world-class float designs.
Image credit; 2; Jean-Marc /Jo BeLo/Jhon-John CC-A-2.0, 3; License Attribution; CC BY 2.0 via Flickr www.thegoodlifefrance.com 4; Romazur CC-ASA-3.0