What is the carnival ?
Carnival was originally a Catholic holiday. It is celebrated just before the beginning of Lent. Lent is a forty-day fast (= voluntary deprivation of all food). During this period of Lent, it will no longer be possible to eat as one wishes, one will no longer be able to eat fat and sugar. This is why it is called Mardi Gras.
The very origin of the word "carnival" refers to this fact. In fact, the word "carnival" comes from the medieval Latin "carne levare" which means "to remove the meat". Meat that referred to fatty food.
Carnival is therefore a great feast where one eats, enjoys oneself before entering a period of deprivation.
Today we have kept the best of carnival: the feast, and we have taken away the worst = Lent.
Carnival is celebrated in different ways. It used to be a symbolic feast where slaves could become king and children could become adults for a day. It was a day when the impossible could happen. Today, we have kept the idea of dressing up as someone we are not the time of a day: a superhero, a prince or a princess, and so on.
It is a very festive, colorful and jovial party.
It is common during the carnival period to eat doughnuts or "bugnes" (there are several names depending on the region). These are lozenge-shaped pastries made with flour, milk, eggs, butter and sprinkled with sugar.
How is carnival celebrated in the French-speaking world ?
So, I'm going to tell you about different carnivals that there are in France and in other French-speaking countries
The carnival of Nice :
The Nice Carnival is the biggest carnival in France and one of the most famous in the world. It is the third largest carnival in the world, after Rio and Venice. It is a very old carnival, we find a first written about the carnival of Nice in 1294. The Nice carnival lasts two weeks during the month of February. This year it will unfortunately be cancelled due to the health situation. The Nice carnival has every year a theme which is announced the spring before.
Before the beginning of the Nice carnival, the king of the carnival, "His Carnival Majesty" arrives at the Maséna square. His arrival announces the beginning of the festivities. The king stays on the Maséna square all along the carnival.
One of the most famous and original traditions of the Nice carnival is the battle of flowers. Flower floats arrive and costumed mannequins throw flowers at the spectators. It is a wonderful spectacle for the eyes and nose.
The carnival of Binche :
We are now in Belgium and we are going to talk about the carnival of Binche. It is less ancient than the carnival of Nice, but it is the oldest in Belgium. The tradition of this carnival is to wear a mask, wooden clogs and a costume of Gille, a theater character. Thousands of Gilles will then parade through the streets of Binche.
The festivities of this carnival start before Shrove Tuesday. The carnival officially lasts 3 days.
Carnival in French Guiana :
Let's go now to the American continent, we are still in France, we are in French Guiana. French Guiana is a French overseas region located on the northeast coast of South America.
The carnival in French Guiana lasts longer than the carnival in Nice and Binche. It is one of the longest carnivals in the world, it can last from January to March. The carnival in French Guiana is very traditional, especially with these characters. One can find the Vaval King, a wooden and straw mannequin, the touloulou: queen of the carnival or Karolin, a rich and coquettish woman.
During this carnival, we can find parades of floats, very festive masked balls.
The Quebec Winter Carnival :
The Quebec Winter Carnival is one of the most beautiful winter carnivals. We celebrate the carnival, but also winter. It is the most visited carnival in the world at 3ᵉ.
The carnival of Quebec City is less flowery than the one in Nice. Because, the carnival of Quebec City is centered on snow. Indeed, one can do snow-related activities (snow sculpture, winter sports, snow baths, snow slides, etc.). The king of the carnival is even a snowman. You can also find an ice palace in the center of the city.
Carnival Vocabulary :
The carnival :
- A mask
- A cotton candy
- A marquee
- A balloon
- A parade
- A carousel
- A float
The costumes :
- A clown
- A cowboy
- A fairy
- A witch
- A Princess
- A pirate
- A magician
- A harlequin
Now it's your turn to tell me how they celebrate carnival in your country, write it down as a comment!
See you soon for new adventures, in French of course! 🇫🇷