Carnival: don masks and costumes, join free-spirited parade and street party, jolly fun before Lent
Carnival is a Western Christian festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent. The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide (or Pre-Lent). Carnival typically involves a public celebration and/or parade combining some elements of a circus, masks, and a public street party. People wear masks and costumes during many such celebrations, allowing them to lose their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity. Excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods proscribed during Lent is extremely common. Other common features of carnival include mock battles such as food fights; social satire and mockery of authorities; and a general reversal of everyday rules and norms.
Latin-derived name of the holiday is sometimes also spelled Carnaval ("farewell to meat", "a farewell to the flesh") , typically in areas where Dutch, German, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are spoken, or Carnevale in Italian-speaking contexts. Alternative names are used for regional and local celebrations. The origin may be from the Italian word carne (meat) or carrus (car). The former suggests an origin within Christianity, while the alternative links to earlier religions. Folk etymologies state that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying the approaching fast. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, producing "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrants to embolden the festival's carefree spirit.
Lent (Latin: Quadragesima: Fortieth) is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The Lenten season's institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week.
Rio's carnival is the largest in the world Rio Carnival is a wild 5-day celebration, 40 days before Easter. It officially starts on Friday and finishes on Fat Tuesday with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday after which one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnival with all its excesses, celebrated as a profane event, could be interpreted an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. It is usually in February, the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere, when summer in Rio is at its peak.
There are carnival celebrations on virtually every corner of Brazil, the best-known ones taking place in Recife together with the neighboring Olinda (in the Northeast of Brazil) and Salvador. But the biggest and most famous carnival is undoubtedly Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
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