As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

Lent Around the World (2) – Mardi Gras & Carnival

Easter (April 8, 2012) is coming very soon. This week from March 26 to March 31 we will look into different Lenten Practices Around the WorldToday we will learn about Mardi Gras and Carnival.
The Spirit of Mardi Gras
Carnival quilt fabrics by Robert Kaufman 
photo source

Origins of Mardi Gras

According to historians, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.

Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras which literally means “Fat Tuesday”. Its origin is believed to have come from the ancient Pagan custom of parading a fat ox through the town streets. Such Pagan holidays were filled with excessive eating, drinking and general bawdiness prior to a period of fasting. The word “carnival”, another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means “to take away or remove meat”.

Mardi Gras Around the World

Across the globe, pre-Lenten festivals continue to take place in many countries with significant Roman Catholic populations. Brazil’s weeklong Carnival festivities feature a vibrant amalgam of European, African and native traditions. In Canada, Quebec City hosts the giant Quebec Winter Carnival. In Italy, tourists flock to Venice’s Carnevale, which dates back to the 13th century and is famous for its masquerade balls. Known as Karneval, Fastnacht or Fasching, the German celebration includes parades, costume balls and a tradition that empowers women to cut off men’s ties. For Denmark’s Fastevlan, children dress up and gather candy in a similar manner to Halloween–although the parallel ends when they ritually flog their parents on Easter Sunday morning.

Make a Mardi Gras Mask (templates/instuctions from DLTK)

Learn more about Mardi Gras celebrations across the globe

Watch a video about the Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro

Watch a video about the Carnaval de  Quebec
Learn more about the history of the Quebec Winter Carnival


Watch the Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans
Learn more about the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition

Image source: Holly Crowe Photo by Roland Weihrauch
Learn more about Fasching in Germany
and other German-Speaking Countries

Photo Source: Blikfang
The Danish tradition of Fastelavn is like a “Nordic Halloween”, children dress up and eat candy
Learn more about Fastelavn


Watch a video of the best masks 
at the Carnevale  di Venezia 2012
Learn more about the history of the Venice Carnival

More photos and videos 
on the Carnival of Venice official website

Preview this book: “Mardi Gras and Carnival”
by Molly Aloian/Crabtree Publishing Company

“Explore the history of Mardi Gras and Carnival, and all its different customs taken from around the world!”

(a great book for children)

Check out a list of Mardi Gras and Carnival Books on Amazon

2 comments on “Lent Around the World (2) – Mardi Gras & Carnival

  1. ellieshilton
    March 27, 2012

    Great post, you have pointed out some superb details, I will tell my friends that this is a very informative blog thanks.
    IT Company India

  2. Paulina Constancia
    March 27, 2012

    Hello from Singapore! Thanks for dropping by. Glad to hear that you have learned something from this post. Looking forward to you and your friends' future visits.

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2012 by in Communicate, Teach.
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