SAMBA: The carnival is so popular in Brazil that there are Samba schools which prepare the dances for the parade. Goa will have to be content with just a Samna square.

The Carnival precedes the month long fasting from lent beginning on ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday.

Here is everything you need to know about the history and the origins of carnival, he world’s oldest party!

What is carnival?
What is carnival festival?, carnival or carnaval is an annual festival that typically occurs before the onset of Lent and generally involves a public celebration of some kind. These public celebrations typically include street parties, parades, balls or some other form of entertainment.
What is the carnival word origin?, the name “carnival” seems to derive from the Italian word “carne“, which explains its Christian origin. In Italian, “carne levare” means “to remove meat“, while in Latin “carne vale” means “farewell to meat“.

What is the History of Carnival?
Where did carnival originate?, well that is a question that doesn’t exactly have an answer. The origin of carnival are a debatable affair. Today carnival is principally a Christian affair celebrated mainly in countries with large Catholic populations.
However, how did carnivals start? carnival pagan origins started long before the emergence of Christianity as it was a celebration that featured prominently in many pagan cultures’ calendars. Where was carnival invented? It has been speculated that carnival origin, carnival origins of the world’s biggest party, were some 5000 years ago with the Egyptians other speculate it was the Greeks. In ancient Egypt and Greece there were festivities that occurred around the cycles of nature and the universe.
Why is carnival celebrated?, in Ancient times long before the emergence of Christianity, people whom we call pagans today had wild celebrations centred around the winter and spring solstices, and spring and fall equinoxes. These wild celebrations were the ones that people were reluctant to give up, even after they became Christians.

Spring Equinox Celebrations
Many pagans held large celebrations that revolved around the spring equinox. Celebrations were always held around the end of winter to celebrate the coming of spring and the renewal of fertility. Carnival was essentially seen as a spiritual passage from dark to light, winter to summer.
In Europe the Pagans believed that evil spirits ruled the world during winter, and that they had to be driven out for summer to return. Many Pagans also held celebrations at the end of successful harvests heading into winter and were a way of thanking the spirits.

End of Winter Feasting
Carnival feasting usually occurred before the onset of spring because it was the last chance common people had to eat well because there was usually a scarcity of food towards the end of winter.
Livestock was usually slaughtered in November, and towards the end of winter all the left-over winter stock of lard, butter and meat would have to be eaten before they started to decay with the onset of warmer temperatures.
This feast insured that everyone was fed enough to last until springtime and until a new harvest could provide new food sources. Nerthus the fertility goddess was at the centre of these celebrations, driving out winter and making sure that fertility would return in the spring.

Dionysia, Ancient Greece and Saturnaalia & Brumalia in Roman Empire
The Roman Empire adopted the most popular pagan festivals and the practices. With the growth of the Roman Empire these festivities spread throughout the empire under newly created names. For example, the December celebration of the winter solstice became known as the Saturnalia and Brumalia festivals.
The pre-spring festivals turned into the spring festival of Ishtar in Babylon, or Osiris in Egypt signalling new birth. Another festival was celebrated in the middle of these two known as the “love-fest” of Lupercalia.

The Catholic Church Christianises pagan celebrations
After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church spread across the world, it frequently discovered that wherever the church went, the native people did not want to give their celebrations and traditions.
So instead of using force the church simply gave the pagan festivals Christian meanings. Saturnalia and Brumalia was converted into Christmas and merged with the church’s teachings about the birth of Jesus.
The spring festivals were converted to Easter and the story of the goddess Ishtar merged with the Roman church’s interpretation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lupercalia turned into St. Valentine’s Day, which fell between Christmas and Easter.

Carnival before Lent
The Vatican then created Lent in the lead up to Easter by imposing its own interpretation of Christ’s 40 day fast by denying meat and earthly pleasures for the 40 days before Easter. They moved the Pagan feasting celebrations to before Lent.
Carnival on the Christian calendar involved the whole community and was a giant celebration in which rich food and drink were consumed, as well a time to indulge sexual desires all of which were supposed to be suppressed during the following period of fasting.
During Lent, no parties or celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating meat, dairy, fat, and sugar. Most of these foods were unavailable anyway during this period because of winter shortages.Lent’s purpose was to commemorate Jesus but also a time to reflect on Christian values. For those converting to Christianity it was a time to prepare for baptism at Easter.

Where did the word “carnival” come from?
This is how the word carnival came about from the Latin words carnis (meat) and levare (“to leave off”), because straight after the carnival came Lent – 40 days of sacrifice. Carnivals ended on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Mardi Gras in Latin, or Fat Tuesday in some countries) the day before Lent officially begins, which is known as Ash Wednesday.

Carnival Today
Today Carnival is truly a global phenomenon that is celebrated over 50 countries. Carnival has evolved beyond pre-Lenten celebrations and every country and city has their own unique spin on carnival traditions and celebrations.

Courtesy: Carnival Land

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