What is Carnival?

Karneval (Rhineland), Fasching (Munich), Fassennacht (Mainz), Fasnet southwestern Germany), Carnaval (in Spanish) or Mardi Gras (Brazil) start in November. In Germany it starts on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11 a.m. and ends Ash Wednesday. This is a time of frolicking and merry-making. The high point comes on the weekend (Saturday, Sunday, Rose Monday and Shrove Tuesday) preceding Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.

The terms Carnival (from Italian) and Mardi Gras (French: fat Tuesday) both refer to a time of indulgence and merry-making. This tradition dates back to mediaeval times, when kings, princes and other rulers lived a time of esplendor, trying to outdo each other with lavish feasts. The common people, looking for a good time as well, established a mock government and chose a prince and princess. Craftmen’s guild organized carnival celebrations. Court jesters brightened up the days. The time was filled with parades, masquerade balls, comical skits, political satirical speeches, and dancing in the streets. The time chosen was based on the idea of merry-making before Lent, the time of fasting.

Carnival or Mardi Gras festivities have become established in various cultures around the world. The most famous are those in Cologne (Germany), Nice (France), Trinidad, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), New Orleans (U.S.A.) and, of course, Edmonton (Canada).