The best three carnivals this February
Lent is approaching, which means millions of people around the world are preparing for Easter. For those intending to fast and abstain from certain luxuries during this time, there’s one big celebration of indulgence to be savoured first: Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Almost every country that observes the festival has its own traditions, from eating special foods to elaborate festivals. We’ve picked out some of our favourite Shrove Tuesday celebrations to help inspire your late-winter travels.
The Carnival of Venice | Venice, Italy
Besides canals and gondolas, the Carnival of Venice is the most famous characteristic of La Serenissima. Venice explodes into a sea of decadent revelries and colourful masks. Carnival began almost a thousand years ago, as a release from the pressures of Venice’s strict oligarchical society. Citizens of the city were made equal through the use of the mask (which often disguised them enough to allow them to indulge in frowned-on activities). The festivities reached a riotous peak in the 18th century and were outlawed for almost 200 years. But in modern times they came back – with a vengeance. Festivities are astounding, with fireworks and parties throughout the city. The most glamorous revellers, in ornate masks and outfits, head to balls and dances, which are still held in the sumptuous palaces that have held prestigious events for centuries.
For a fantastically located residence for the carnival, we recommend the Hotel Gritti Palace.
Rio Carnival | Rio de Janeiro
Widely considered to be a wonder of modern times, with attendance high on many a bucket list, Rio’s carnival is one of the largest and most famous parties in the world. The tradition brings together all walks of life to celebrate in the city’s streets. The most iconic event is the samba school parade in the Sambadrome, an exhibition space specifically designed for carnival. Each samba school, of which there are more than 200 (many with thousands of members), represents a different community or neighbourhood and is intensely proud. The beautiful costumes and extravagant floats, music and dancing, are their combined effort, and there’s an exciting rivalry each year as each school attempts to outdo the others. The resulting display is unmatched in extravagance and an incredible riot of the senses that has come to encapsulate Brazilian character and passion.
For a guide to the best hotels in Rio? Find them here
Fasching | Munich, Germany
In Munich and Bavaria carnival is known as Fasching (from the old German for fasting), and as one of the main centres for Catholicism in Germany, Munich is home to one of the country’s largest and oldest carnivals. Its origins are a blend of early Christian and pagan traditions. But while many other carnivals have historically attempted to distance themselves from their pagan roots, German Fasching wears that heritage proudly. Nowhere is this more evident than in the costumes of the performers and revellers who fill the streets. Devoid of the glitz of Rio, or the artifice of Venice, the costumes are traditional and often intentionally unnerving. Representing characters and archetypes that have been a part of these celebrations for thousands of years, devils, goat-headed gods and various monsters straight from pagan mythology are typical.
Beginning in January, Fasching starts slowly with sedate and elegant balls. As the season progresses, the celebrations spill out onto the streets, culminating in Faschingssonntag (the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday), when the city is taken over by masked dancers, eating and drinking. For a truly traditional carnival, Munich’s Fasching is not to be missed.
For a place to stay with plenty of the city’s attractions within walking distance, we recommend The Charles Hotel.
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