Mardi Gras is generally referred to as the day before Lent fasting and meant to be about eating a-lot of rich foods, but there is so much more going on than just feasting during this celebration! This day marks the last of Carnival, or Carnevale, the most entertaining festival across the world. It can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks and is all about elaborate parades, parties, balls and of course, food. If you’d like to partake in the festivities, here is a list of the best Mardi Gras celebrations around the globe.
Showers of confetti, luxurious masquerade balls, allegorical wagons, and delicious fried pastries are all specialties of the Venice Carnevale. The main features however have always been the stunning masquerade costumes and masks. This carnival is one of the oldest festivals annually celebrated in the world and is an occasion where everyone can let loose and have a great time, which explains the tradition of the masks! Carnevale began in the 12th century and was the only period when all classes of society could let go of their social status, partake in immoral behaviour, and commit all sorts of mischiefs. We are now however in 2022 and no matter how intricate your mask and costume are, you will most likely get arrested if you break the law!
Music, dance, and colour are what best describe Carnival in Goa. Being the party capital of India, this is not surprising. The reason however Carnival is celebrated in Goa, is because of its Portuguese ancestry, making it one of the few Western Christian celebrations in Asia. Carnival in Goa is a perfect blend of Hindu and Christian cultures, with outfits of splendid colour, local seafood and delicacies everywhere, and bands of signers and dance troops at every street corner. The mesmerizing Red-and-Black dance, a performance unique to Goa’s Carnival, will have you tapping your feet against the ground until sunrise.
New Orleans, USA
Probably one the first cities to come to mind when we hear Mardi Gras is New Orleans, hosting the biggest Carnival in the United States with over 600 years of history and tradition. This already vibrant city increases exponentially with music, parties, floats, drinking, feasting and mayhem during Carnival. Unique to New Orleans are the krewes, considered to be the heart and soul of Mardi Gras. Krews are the clubs that organize the Mardi Gras festivities, each with their own float that can only be ridden by members. Traditionally, krews used to toss beads at parade goers, but today each krew creates its own throws that can include anything from purses, to toiletries, necklaces, and colourful medals. Just remember the traditional colours of the parade are purple, red, and green, but contrary to what you may hear, you don’t have to flash anyone to get beads.
Designated as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO, the originality and long tradition of Mardi Gras in Binche have surely earned it a spot among the best celebrations in the world. Hundreds of “Gilles”, traditionally males sporting red, yellow and black costumes, and wielding sticks to ward off evil, parade the streets with ostrich-feather hats, wooden clogs, and wax masks with green spectacles. As part of the tradition, Gilles hand out oranges to spectators as they march through the streets. Mardi Gras in Binch can be considered a live museum, as virtually nothing about the dress, rituals and spectacle has changed across centuries.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Considered as the Caribbean’s biggest Mardi Gras celebration, Trinidad at Tobago’s Carnival is synonymous with Soca, Calypso and steelpans. This currently female dominated festival was forbidden to the African slaves who decided to throw their own parties, Camboulay, dressing up as their masters and mocking them. This led to the creation of the “Mas”, a masquerade band, each with its unique set of costumes. If you wish to partake in the parade, you must “play mas” meaning select one of these bands to march with, and wear one of their many costumes which are created months in advance. Make sure not to miss out on J’Ouvert, the pre-dawn street party where attendees watch the sunrise covered in mud, pitch oil and body paint!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Did you really think we’d skip this one? The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is attended by over five million people, making it the biggest carnival in the world and surely one of the wildest. Samba parades, 20-meter floats, thousands of performers, and crazy street parties will have you on your feet until you’re ready to be carried home. Let the rhythm take over as you watch the different samba schools compete on the Sambadrome, sipping your beer and as you enjoy the biggest party on earth.
Until next time, travel safely!
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Written by: Nadine Ishak