Carnival is the religious festive season which occurs immediately before Lent (the six weeks directly before Easter marked by fasting), traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox makeup.
Beginning 11th November and going through winter, Germans celebrate during Karneval, aka Fasching. In cologne events include parades, balls, concerts and traditional variety shows. An all-night ball is thrown on the Monday before Ash Wednesday.
Beginning Fat Saturday (the Saturday before Ash Wednesday) and lasting for three days, the Goa Carnival in India is the legend of hippy parties. King Momo (King of Carnivals) reads a decree entitling him to rule for three days and orders everyone to party. Dancing, parades, singing and instrument playing follows.
Held 40 days before Easter, the São Vicente Carnival is inspired by the carnivals of Brazil, mixed with their shared Portuguese history. Mindelo holds the largest of the celebrations with jerry-built floats, and curvy dancers, swaying to Creole Coladeira and dressed in African shrieks. Competitions are held for best outfit, prettiest girl, and the finest oil-smeared, drum-beating group of Mandingo warriors.
Beginning on the 6th January, with a masked ball for the Feast of the Epiphany, is the famous New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations. This is followed by five days of partying New Orleans style!
The Brazil Carnival at Olinda, Brazil, begins Friday afternoon (51 days before Easter) and ends Ash Wednesday at noon. The Rio de Janeiro version is the large, loud and flashy version of the Carnival, whilst at the historic coastal town of Olinda it is the opposite. Small bands play frevo, and giant paper maché puppets line the cobbled quarter. Every street boasts its own band (bloco) which brings troupes of dancers in audacious costumes, with some of the most amazing costumes worn by transvestite groups on Carnival Friday.
The Carnaval de Oruro has been designated one of the UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity since 2001. This 2000 year old religious festival takes place over four days and features the leading traditional dance; the diablada (devil). The festival includes performances from many folk dancing groups.
Beginning the 17th January and stretching in to early March, the Patras Carnival draws its inspiration from the Ancient Greek God, Dionysus (the God of Wine). Parades, Smoky Thursday grill (Tsiknopempti), the annual masquerade ball (Bourboulia), the children’s carnival, and the hidden treasure game all make up the festivities.
Held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday every year, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the most elaborate of Caribbean carnivals. All night parties, elaborate dress, music, colour and creativity are the building blocks of this festival.
From the 13th C CE the Venetian Carnevale has been an extravagant display of fantasy and anonymity famous for the elaborate Venetian masks. It is held annually leading up to the religious celebration of lent.
Starting eight days before Lent with the quema del mal humor (burning of ill-humor), the burning of an effigy of Satan or an unpopular political figure. Days of parties and parades follow including the mock burial of Carnival Juan, the symbol of festivities.