The world’s biggest carnivals and parties
World over there are carnivals and street parties whose revelry and splendour we cannot even begin to imagine. The closest many get to seeing one of these is by watching them on TV or in movies. Yet, if you have the desire to travel, add this to your list of your ten must-see carnivals and parties and start enjoying some of the most awe-inspiring experiences of your life.
- The Rio Janeiro Carnival, Brazil
According to Guinness World Records, this became the world’s largest street party in 2012 when 850 000 people partied up the streets. Initially, it was a celebration of slavery abolition. Today it is the sexiest, most riotous and crazy carnival and party in the world. Do not miss the Samba Parade where the best dance schools rival each other through the streets. You can even join one of the samba schools in the parade for a fee as well.
When: February or March
2. New Orleans Mardi Gras, USA
New Orleans has a reputation as the most culturally diverse state and their Mardi Gras does not disappoint. Purple, green and gold are the carnival colours to represent justice, power and faith. It proceeds through the streets on floats and spectators catch trinkets flung from floats to honour the different cultures. Be a true part of the carnival and party by dressing in elaborate costumes. Alternatively, try wangling a ticket to a private ball with one of the secret clubs called krewes. There is one with open admission as well.
When: late February/early March
3. The Carnival of Venice, Italy
This is the oldest carnival in Europe, dating back to 1268. Masks are an important part as citizens originally wore masks in an attempt to attain equal treatment. Today you can watch locals wearing costumes, masks and cloaks to attend local balls transforming the piazzas into colourful splendours. It is a parade as there are no roads so revellers are forced to walk to balls. Only Doges’s Ball is open to tourists but tickets can also be expensive.
When: February and March
4. Cologne Street Festival, Germany
This is a Christian festival and starts on Shrove Thursday. During the ‘crazy days’ women roam the streets with scissors and cut off ties of passing men. Random kisses are a common feature and you should prepare yourself to be ‘smackered’. It ends with the Rose Monday Parade where ‘the prince, the peasant and the maiden’ march through the street.
When: starts 11 November 11:11am (crazy days start on Shrove Thursday)
5. Carnival of Binche, Belgium
The Binche carnival is deeply embedded in history and is a UNESCO Intangible Heritage event. Locals dress up as the folkloric characters of Gilles who have waxed moustaches, wear colourful tunics, wooden clogs and ostrich feather hats. The status of Gille is passed from local fathers to sons. Residents are serious about the tradition, restricting costumes to Shrove Tuesday and you may not leave Binche that day. Do not show suprise if someone throws an orange at you, it is part of the tradition.
6. Saint Patrick’s Day, Ireland
Celebrate this worldwide phenomenon in its birth country. It is a Christian celebration remembering St Patrick’s introduction of Christianity through Ireland. Nowadays, however, it is also a celebration of Irish culture. Throngs of colourfully dressed people entertain crowds with music, street theatre, parades and carnivals. Food is a major part of the celebration especially if it is green. Guinness is an essential, with pubs overflowing with revellers. There are also even major parades in New York and Singapore.
When: 17 March
7. Notting Hill Carnival, London
Notting Hill is famous for more than just a movie. It is also home to one of Europe’s largest street carnivals. This festival is a celebration of the Caribbean culture in London. There are floats, dancers, bass music players, and revellers eating chicken, drinking Red Strip and smoking Jamaican tobacco.
When: last week of August
8. Trinidad Carnival
It is the biggest pre-Lenten party in the Caribbean. A number of fêtes precede the carnival in the weeks before. It is strongly dependent on onlookers participating so prepare to join the dancing and paint splashing as well. Costumes of party-goers satirise the former British colonial rule. A popular part is ‘Jouvert’ where people smear themselves in mud and body paint and drink rum, dance to calypso and soco bands and perform extremely fast dance moves called ‘wining’.
9. Quebec Winter Carnival
This is another of the carnivals and parties with Christian roots. It is a French pre-Lenten tradition. It normally occurs when the snowfall is at its highest. People spend time outside in skating rinks, on toboggan runs and in parades. Since 1894, an ice hotel is built each year where people can rest in sleeping bags in an icy wonder. Festival goers also dress as shrimp, caribou and other creatures.
10. Holi festival, India
This festival of colours is an ancient Indian festival which was initially a special rite. It was performed by married women to secure happiness and also the well-being for their families. The celebration is kicked-off with bonfires the night before. On the day, dyes and powders bought from street vendors shower everyone in rich colours in the streets and outside Hindu temples.
When: February to March
These are just some of the amazing carnivals and parties out there. Do not waste anymore time watching the festivals on TV and instead, be there, right in the middle of the excitement.
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