The Tiny Travelers Guide to Carnival

By Tiny Travelers Team

Carnival is a vibrant and energetic celebration, dating all the way back to the Middle Ages! While Carnival is for everyone, it is historically associated with Christian tradition. Carnival marks the days before Lent, a period of religious observance beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 26th of this year), and ends six weeks later on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. Because Lent is a time where many people give up luxuries, Carnival is a time to embrace the sweeter things in life! Celebrations can go on for up to 2 weeks, but typically begin a week before on Fat Tuesday (also known as Mardi Gras), the day before Lent. 

Carnival festivities are known to be extravagant, with parades in the streets, live music, delicious food, and of course: costumes! Masks are an important part of Carnival, and during the celebrations you can see all sorts of beautifully decorated masks. Historically, masks were worn with scary faces to frighten away evil spirits before Lent. As Carnival begins this month, people all around the world will be celebrating! For all those Tiny Travelers out in the world, here are some of the top Carnival destinations. 

Considered to be the biggest Carnival celebration in the world, each day 2 million people flood the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The parades are filled with performers, floats, and dancers from the over 200 Samba dance schools located in Rio, each dressed in elaborate costumes performing choreographed dances. 

In the state of Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a big deal. Celebrations last for two weeks, with major parades taking place every day, sometimes more than one! The parades are organized by social clubs known as “krewes,” some of which have taken the same parade route for decades! Each krewe has a float, and will keep the festivities going by tossing goodies into the crowds, usually necklaces of brightly colored beads.

These tiny islands sure do have some big celebrations! Traditional Calypso and Soca music can be heard everywhere, and throughout the festivities there are even musical competitions. The biggest is the  “Dimanache Gras” competition, which is aired on TV and crowns the winner “Calypso Monarch.” There are even kids music competitions! During the parades, musical bands will go down the street, each with a “king” and “queen” who are the most elaborately dressed!

One of the most famous Carnival destinations in Europe, the city of Viareggio has held Carnival celebrations since 1873. Their parades stand out as unique because of the giant paper mache floats, many of which feature larger-than-life versions of famous people. Unlike other Carnival celebrations, Viareggio’s carnival has an official mascot, the Burlamacco, which looks a bit like a clown!