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Celebrating Carnival: 6 of the Best Carnival Parties in the World

©istockphoto/PeopleImages

©istockphoto/PeopleImages

Though its history is based in Christian, and mainly Catholic overtones, Carnival today is known for parades, parties and beads. Practically the whole world celebrates Carnival in one form or another and here are just a few of the best.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – February 13-17
This is the grand-daddy of them all and the one most of us are familiar with. Recognized by none other than the Guinness World Records folks as the largest carnival in the world, this celebration boasts approx. 2 million people each day. It is known as “One of the Biggest Shows of the Earth” and is a huge tourist draw bringing millions of tourist, both Brazilians and foreigners to Rio every year. Large social entities called “Samba Schools” which usually represent specific neighborhoods host parades with their own themes, floats, dancers and bands. This Carnival celebration tends to get a bit raunchy and is not considered kid-friendly or for the faint of heart.

Trinidad and Tobago – Feb 16-17 
This is considered the King of the Caribbean island celebrations and like a majority of Carnivals, it culminates on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad, hosts the largest celebration while Tobago celebrates as well, in a smaller party in their capital city of Scarborough. Steel bands compete in the annual Carnival Steel Pan competition known as the National Panorama in the weeks before Carnival and the finals are held on the Saturday before the main party. Music styles include newer hybrids like Rapso, a mixture of Rap and Calypso and Chutney-Soca which is a combination of the Chutney and Soca styles.

Puerto Rico – Feb 11-17
The Carnival de Ponce is held in Ponce and is one of the oldest Carnivals in the Western Hemisphere, with the Smithsonian Institution claiming it can be traced as far back as 250 years ago. An estimated 100,000 people attend every year. This week long celebration also ends the day before Ash Wednesday and is one of many held on the Island including the popular Carnival de Loiza.

The Carnival of Venice, Italy – Jan 31-Feb 17

Another celebration that ends the day before Ash Wednesday but which takes place on the other side of the world from the Caribbean is the infamous Carnival of Venice. Known for the elaborate masks worn at balls, the Carnival allegedly arose from a victory of war in 1162. It became an official celebration during the Renaissance and though it became more famous in the eighteenth century, it had been outlawed in 1797 while under the rule of the King of Austria. Then after reappearing sporadically in the nineteenth century, it was officially brought back by the Italian government in 1979. An estimated 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for Carnival with a big draw being the “la maschera piu bella,” (The most beautiful mask) contest held on the last weekend of the celebration.

Intruz, Goa, India – Feb 14-17
India’s Carnival is held in the state of Goa and is known as “Intruz” which is from “Entrudo” a Portuguese word for Carnival. The largest celebration in in the city of Panaji and was introduced by the Portuguese who ruled Goa for over four centuries. This celebration lasts three days and nights and also features grand balls along with parades with floats and bands all night long.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana – Feb 13-17
This is America’s version of Carnival and runs for two weeks, also ending the day before Ash Wednesday called Fat Tuesday. The very first Mardi Gras parade held in New Orleans was in 1837. The famous slogan “Laissez les bons temps rouler” or “Let the good times roll” has become synonymous with this popular southern party. Known for the parades organized by groups known as Carnival Krewes, the riders on the floats throw beads and wooden dollar sized coins with each Krewe’s logo emblazoned on them. This two week party has become the biggest week for New Orleans and their French Quarter and made the city famous for their party atmosphere. In 2015, Mardi Gras parades start February 6th with the “Official” celebration starting Feb 13.

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