What is the origin of Carnival?

Etymology, celebration and actuality

The carnival is celebrated in countries of Christian traddition, generally lasts 3 days and begins according to different customs just before Lent, starting on January 6, or the Thursday before Ash Wednesday-called Fat Thursday in Italy, when you have to consume foods rich in fat that symbolize the rebirth of vitality.

origin of Carnival

In other towns far from the religious rites, which also celebrate the carnival but as a more popular celebration, they do it every weekend in February, sometimes extending it until the beginning of March.

Etymology of Carnival

There are different versions of the origin of the word carnival, such as the Latin carnevale which means the farewell of meat that will not be eaten in the next 40 days of Christian Lent before Easter.

Or the relationship with the celebration in honor of Carna, daughter of Heleno, goddess of beans and bacon.

Mardi Gras in French-or as it is called in Italian Martedi Grasso-means Fat Tuesday and refers to the great meal that used to be made before Ash Wednesday where the Easter fast begins.


The origin of this custom, according to historians, more than 5000 years old, at the time of the Roman Empire, where occasions were celebrated similarly and then spread in the rest of Europe and America by Portuguese and Spanish sailors.

It is also known to the version that says that the agricultural villages had to consume the winter food they kept thanks to the cold, before the arrival of spring and its higher temperatures, when the food ran the risk of spoiling.

Then they had a big party to eat all the animal and perishable products and then fast until the spring equinox of March 21 (in the northern hemisphere) where they would have access to the products of the new season.

This version assumes that different religions then adapted their histories and myths according to these needs of nature.

Carnival today

Nowadays the carnival is a celebration of ludic character where the games abound, the music, banquets, dances and amusement in general.

This is the name given, because of similarity, to any other celebration of the type where the lack of control and the characteristic permissiveness of this feast prevail in its origin (and what is said is the cause of the use of masks to hide the “sinner”).

All over the world the carnival is the reason for great celebrations and festivities, some places being well known for their large productions and attractive to its inhabitants and tourists seeking to see local traditions.

The carnival of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, that of Venice in Italy, or that of New Orleans in the United States, are the ones that resonate the most. With different customs and styles each are part of their own traditions and are a clear reflection of the personalities of each culture.

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