Carnival around the World

While people in Germany’s carnival strongholds of Cologne and Mainz argue about whether they’re supposed to shout “Alaaf” or “Helau”, carnival traditions differ even more vastly around the world. Ice and snow dominate carnival days in chilly Canada; in Venice, Piazza San Marco turns into a catwalk for masks, while New Orleans is home to colourful parades and jazz music. Read on to discover how diversely carnival is celebrated around the world and why Cologne carnival is celebrated in Namibia.


France - Carnaval de Nice
Although there is also a Carnaval de Paris, Nice is the French city most known for its carnival. This is due not only to the parade having a view of the sea, but also because carnival in Nice has a lot of tradition: The earliest record of the festival can be found in a travel report by Count Charles d'Anjou from the year 1294. Carnival in Nice is marvellously flowery. Flower battles take place on several days and during the procession 16 flower-strewn floats go by, from which flowers are thrown down to the crowd. There are also numerous costumes worn by the parade’s participants to reflect the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean. The carnival in Nice ends on 25th February with the traditional burning of the carnival king at Place Masséna and fireworks to top it off.
Italy - Carnevale di Venezia The Venetian carnival is one of the largest and most famous in Europe. As there’s something going on at every street corner, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of things at Venice Carnival. A look at the programme will ensure you don’t miss the most important attractions. There is something for everyone: on February 26, Corri, a masked run organised by the Venicemarathon Club, takes place in Maschera. Not to be missed is the Volo dell'Angelo, the escape of a disguised woman from the bell tower of San Marco to the main stage. To conclude the festivities, a large flag with the emblem of Venice, the winged lion, is raised above the bell tower. Many of the events do not take place on the Venice’s streets: the Grand Opening is celebrated in the Arsenale, the former shipyard of the city, and dinner parties are organised in the Galeria delle Meraviglie (Gallery of Miracles).
Spain - Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is celebrated everywhere on the island of Tenerife, but the largest celebration is in Santa Cruz. The traditional procession takes place there every year on Shrove Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras). This year's carnival experience is under the theme "Caribbean". In 1987, a concert during the Santa Cruz Carnival by the singer Celia Cruz even made it into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest gathering of people in an outdoor plaza. More than 200,000 people attended the concert. The festivities end with "The funeral of the sardine", representing the end of the carnival and the beginning of the fasting season. Traditionally, a large, decorated fish figurine (usually made of cardboard or fabric) is lit and driven burning out to sea. This is accompanied by tongue-in-cheek mourning process consisting of lamenting widows and funeral guests. But no reason to mope around: the funeral procession is followed by musicians and dance groups who put everyone in a good mood.
Spain - Carnaval de Cádiz Another well-known carnival is Carneval de Cádiz. In Cádiz a particularly large focus is placed on the "Tipos", the costumes, as well as the music. Even before the start of the carnival, the whole of Andalusia follows the Falla Theatre, a competition in which about 100 music groups compete over the course of about 20 days, in order to be allowed to participate in the carnival in the categories of choirs, comparsas, chirigotas and quartets. In each category, however, only four groups may perform. The competition is broadcast on local TV channels Canal Sur TV and Canal Sur Radio. Anticipation for the carnival is so great that even small streetfood festivals begin before the actual festival, for example the "Pestiñada", where delicious honey pancakes are served.

South America


Brazil - Rio de Janeiro Carnival
Especially well-known for its carnival is the Brazilian capital Rio de Janeiro, which celebrates the world's largest carnival. The festival is opened with the coronation of the carnival king, Momo, by the mayor. The highlight of the festivities is the Samba Parade. There are also numerous street festivals with music and dancing, as well as carnival balls. The Gay Gala and the Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace are particularly well-known. From Saturday to Tuesday, numerous open-air dances take place throughout the city. The largest and most organised takes place in Cinelândia Square. During the Samba Parade several Samba schools compete against each other to enter the Grupo Especial. Each school chooses an annual motto, after which the festoons and the costumes are finetuned. Brazil - Salvador Carnival You undoubtedly aware that carnival was celebrated in Rio de Janeiro, but did you know that it is also properly celebrated in Salvador da Bahia? During the carnival the strong African influence of the inhabitants becomes clear: It is a celebration that celebrates the joy of life. As Rio is particularly known for the Samba schools, the carnival in Salvador thus prides itself on being the biggest street carnival that keenly includes the public.
Carnival wouldn’t be carnival in Salvador without the Trios Elétricos, box-car-like vehicles equipped with high-power sound systems and stages on their roofs which play music for the crowds of people. The actual carnival lasts only 6 days, but pre-festivals like in Cádiz extent the festivities to a total of 12 days.


Bolivien - Carnaval de Oruro The Carnival of Oruro in Bolivia lasts 10 days and the main attraction of the spectacle is the procession or "Entrada". Since the city of Oruro was built in a holy place of the Uru, an indigenous people from Bolivia, they return every year to perform sacred rituals there. Although the Spanish settlers forbade the rituals in the 17th century, they were still practised, albeit disguised as Christian rituals, which explains why there are numerous elements of the religions of the indigenous peoples in Oruro carnival. For this reason, the festivities of Oruro were included in the list of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage" by UNESCO in 2001. In 2008 the carnival was also listed on the “Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity".


Québec - Carnaval de Québec Unlike in most other cities, the Canadian carnival is held at the end of January and beginning of February. One of the first things and outside visitor will notice is that this time of year is still extremely cold in Canada. The ambassador of the carnival is a snowman named Bonhomme Carnaval and is a big part of the festivities is the ice sculpture festival. Do you like building sculptures out of ice? No problem: Teams from all over the world can compete against each other to sculpt the most beautiful frosty sculpture. Québec also has Carnival Queens: here they are called Duchesse and there are exactly 7 of them, one for each duchy of Québec. The one who sells the most candles during the carnival is then be crowned Carnival Queen. This is just one of the many traditions that make the Carnaval de Québec worth a visit.



New Orleans - Mardi Gras Carnival heartland in the USA is New Orleans. This may surprise you, but if you take a look at the history of the city it is not at all surprising. New Orleans was founded around 1718 by French settlers, who brought the tradition of the carnival from Catholic Europe. For this reason, Shrove Tuesday is still called "Mardi Gras" (French for Fat Tuesday). The events are particularly uproarious in the French Quarter, another souvenir from the time of the French settlers.
The founder of the city, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, is said to have discovered the area around New Orleans on a Shrove Tuesday. You can find out more about that on the official website for the New Orleans carnival. Groups like the "Mardi Gras Indians" also add Native American and African customs and jazz music to the mix between the balls and parades. The festival is also a celebration of cultural diversity. The official colours of the carnival, green, gold and purple, symbolise hope, power and justice.



Namibia - Windhoek Karneval

Cologne Carnival in Namibia? Yes, you read correctly. In this country in the South West of Africa, carnival is celebrated particularly among German Namibians. "Windhoek Karneval" (WiKa), is the largest carnival in Namibia. The whole thing is organised by the Windhoek Sports Club, which was founded in 1951 by German emigrants. While the festivities in Canada start before most other cities, Namibia’s carnivals start later. They begin at the end of March and go on until the middle of April. The reason for this is that in February it is still much too hot for any outdoor events. As is usual in Germany, there is a prince’s ball, a parade, a meeting, a magnificent session, a masked ball and much more. This year's theme is "Spin the world as you like it".