Mardi Gras around the world

By: Alisa Lindsey

The history of Mardi Gras is known to few, but should be known to many.  Mardi Gras is celebrated in many different ways around the world.  Mardi Gras to Orleanais, is known as “Fat Tuesday,” however around the globe it is known as; Carnival, Carnaval, Carnevale, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Fastnacht, Fastelavn, and Maslenitsa.  Mardi Gras in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions is known as the last call for the faithful to eat meat and other rich foods before lent.

Carnival of Binche

In Binche, Belgium, which is near the French border, they are awakening by the beats of a drum, then they come into the streets to chase away winter and participate in folk traditions.  One common thing you will find is many people in the crowd would have blood oranges, which are symbolic for fertility.  This tradition has been dated back to the 14th century, which is very similar to the Nogaku Theater in Japan.  Also, it is similar to Lithuania’s symbolic cross crafting.  During the carnival, you can see several costumes that symbolize these areas.  Some of their common foods are oysters with champagne vinegar mignonette and blood oranges with grand marnier sabayon.

Rio de Janeiro Carnaval

In Brazil, they celebrate carnaval in Rio.  The carnaval in Rio is labeled the biggest carnaval in the world.  In Rio, the streets are covered with parties and festivals for weeks.  However, their main attractions are the samba-schools battling for supremacy in the Oscar Niemeyer.  Brazil also has a main attraction dish during carnaval time called feijoada completa.  The feijoada complete is filled with corned beef, pork sausage, pigs’ tails and feet, and bacon (the dish can vary).

Carnaval de Quebec

Canada did not start celebrating Mardi Gras until the 19th century.  Canada transforms the French Mardi into their own Winter Celebrations.  In Canada, their festival has a mascot called Bonhomme. Bonhomme is a snowman. Because it is a winter festival, they focus strictly on winter decorations. The winter festival lasts 17 days, and just like everyone else they have their own signature food.  In Canada, their celebrations included beaver tails and caribou.  Beaver tails are actually fried-dough treats whopped with cinnamon and sugar.  The Caribou is a mixture of port, sherry, brandy, and vodka, served in a hollowed-out cane.  Even though Canada has a winter celebration, they receive hundreds of thousands of attendees.

Fastelavn, Denmark

The Fastelavn is a Shrovetide celebration that originated after the Protestant Reformation.  Originally a black cat was placed into a barrel and the children would beat the barrel until the cat fell out.  Now they have replaced the cat with candy.  The children also dress up in costumes and go door to door for money and candy.  Their celebration is very similar to Halloween, here in America.  The children chat “buns up, buns down, buns in my tummy, if I don’t get any buns, I’ll make trouble.”  The buns the children are referring to are called fastelavnsboller.  Fastelavnsbollers are sweet breads that are sometimes filled with whipped cream in the middle.

Carnaval de Nice, France

The Nice’s Carnaval started back in 1294 and is the largest festival in France.  The carnaval is filled with floats with big heads on them and street performers.  The effigy of King Carnaval is burned and fireworks are started.  They also have a Flower Box event where they decorate carriages and exchange boutiques.  Instead of throwing beads and teddy bears and other toys, they throw close to 100,000 flowers.

Canevale di Venezia, Italy

The Venetian Carnevale is known to be enchanting and elegant.  It is the time the city plays dress-up. Everyone wears a mask that originated during the Republic of Venice.  They have theater performances, mask competitions, and a candlelit water parade.  The main event is the Cavalchina Grand Ball at La Fenice, which is the hardest thing to get a ticket to if you are not famous, or a patron of the arts.  The most popular drinks and recipes are Bomboloni with Chocolate Espresso, whiskey caramel, and Clementine sauces.

Maltese Carnival

In Malta, in the 16th century, included matches among the Knights of the Order of St. John.  The fighting spirit is still believed to be alive and well.  The Maltese celebrations have floats designed with hydraulic action, confetti canons, Day-Glo colors, and blaring music is encouraged.  The festival food in Malta is prinjolata.  Just like most carnivals they have the annual float competition, masked balls, and parades.

Maslenitsa, Moscow, Russia

Maslenitsa is a festival that symbolizes the stars and the sun.  They serve crepes topped with caviar, smoked fish, sour cream, butter, or cheese that represent the stars.  This festival is known in Russia as “butter week.”  Since 2001, Moscow’s Vasilievsky Spusk, an extension of Red Square located between St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Moscow River, has hosted an annual weeklong festival with a fairy-tale-inspired village, food stalls, live music, games, and folk dancing, all fueled by medovukha.

Trinidad Carnival

Trinidad Carnival takes place in Port of Spain.  During the festival people use calypsos, socas, and steel-pan-drums to perform.  The interesting part about this carnival, it takes places right after Christmas.  It is a two day affair with street parties, costumed bands in sequined bikinis and colorful feather headdresses.  The food includes Shark and Bake which is a fish sandwich, and doubles (spiced fried bread stuffed with curried chickpeas).

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