This Tuesday marks the beginning of celebrating what marks the countdown to Easter. Mardi Gras, Carnival, Carnaval, Carnevale, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday, Fastnacht, Fastelavn, and Maslenitsa is celebrated all over the globe in different and eccentric manifestations. What all these parties have in common is that delicious food is a central part of making these festivities what they are. In Eastern Orthodox traditions and the Roman Catholic religion, Mard Gras, is considered the last chance for the religiously devout to eat meat and other gluttonous foods before Lent, the six week time of atonement and fasting before Easter arrives. In some countries Carnival is a mostly a secular party while pre – Christian festivities like Bacchanalia and Satunnalia promote an indulge while you can mentality. Depending on dates from country and celebration coinciding with liturgical calendars, February and March marks a time of many Carnival season celebrations. Let us take a look at how food takes a central part in these celebratory occasions.
Venice Carnival, Italy - Feb 11-21, 2012
Carnival in Venice which means farewell to meat, lasts 10 days. First held in the 11th century and consisted of two months of revelry before declining in the 18th Century. In 1970 the Italian government brought back the tradition and is one of the world photographed affairs. Stunning Venetian masks and sumptuous costumes adorn revelers during this time of extreme merriment.
Libation:Campanian red wine such as Mastroberardino’s Aglianico d’Irpinia or Lacrima Cristi Rosso.
Rio Carnival, Brazil - Feb 17-22, 2012
Rio is arguably the Carnival capital of the world. Over half a million foreign tourists make their pilgrimage for ultimate carousing and merriment. Carnival is considered a blasphemous event and is sendoff to the carnal pleasures before the start of Lent. All over Brazil, lascivously clad dancers and blaring blocos celebrate the carnival that all others are measured.
Trinidad Carnival - Feb 17-22, 2012
Trinidad’s carnivals is known as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The subversive calypso singers belt out tunes with a social message over infectious beats. With a cacophony of colors, steel pan drums, marching bands, skimpily clad dancers, rum, and Carib beer to drive the 24 hour partying, Trinidad’s carnival is truly like no other.
Food: Shark and Bake
New Orleans Mardi Gras - Feb 21, 2012
Fat Tuesday marks the last day of overindulgence before Ash Wednesday. With over 400 floats, 15,000 people participating in the parade, and nearly 1 million partygoers as spectators, New Orleans is America’s biggest outdoor celebration. Mark Twain said it best, “"An American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans”.
Food: Popcorn: Rice and Crawfish Boudin Cakes
Libation: Sour Mash and Lime Tea
Goa Carnival, India - Feb 18-21, 2012
I am sure it is a surprise to most people that India has a Pre- Lenten Carnival. You might think it strange for an overwhelmingly Hindu country. However in Goa, they offer the subcontinent’s only Carnival because of the regions affiliation with the Portuguese who colonized the area and ruled it for over five hundred years. Notwithstanding being a Christian festivity, the party is a mixture of Western and Hindu traditions making for a medley of exciting traditions that feature elaborate balls, colorful floats, and infectious dancing.
Drink: Dazzling Goa
Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival, Canary Islands - Feb 17-26, 2012
Spanish dictators Primo de Rivera and General Franco banned Tenerife’s carnival from 1923 – 1960 with only a slight reprieve for 5 years, is justification for it to be a party to be celebrated. It is regarded as the second most popular globally recognized carnival after Rio’s in Brazil. Tenerife’s carnival is filled with cross – dressing dancers, gorgeous queens, and historic “murgas” in clown costumes.
Libation: Abona, El Hierro, Lanzarote, La Palma, Tacoronte-Acentejo, Valle de Güimar, Valle de la Orotava, Icoden-Daute-Isora, Monte Lentiscal and Gran Canaria.
Oruro Carnival, Bolivia - Feb 17-22, 2012
Over half a million people line the streets of Oruro during Bolivia’s Carnival to take in over 25, 000 traditional dancers and over 10,000 musicians parade around town for 20 hours. The festivities are considered by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The festivities are led by San Miguel who is followed by devils, other underworld sorts, and conquistadores painted as Lucifer himself.
Libation: Passionfruit Sour
Denmark’s Fastelavn, is a Shrovetide holiday celebrating the beginning 40 days of fasting before Easter. It was secularized by the Protestant Reformation and is now more a children’s celebration. There is candy, children dress up like it is Halloween, and they go from home to home singing a song that references a sweet bread with whipped cream in the middle.
Carnaval de Nice, France - February 17 – March 4, 2012
Nice’s Carnaval, which dates back to 1294 and is today the largest in France, includes many iconic trappings of New Orlean’s Mardi Gras celebration. Parades of floats topped with papier-mâché “big heads” make their way down the Place Massena and light up at night. Instead of beads, costumed parade goers exchange beautiful bouquets of flowers and floats are decked out in wondrous blossoms. The last day there are spectacular fireworks and an effigy of King Carnaval is burned to light up the sky.
Food: Squid Provence
Libation: Provencal Cocktail
Maslenitsa, Moscow, Russia - February 20 – 26, 2012
Maslenitsa also known as a “butter week” in respect of the decadent foods that are prohibited during Lent. After a long hiatus of only being celebrated privately at home, it was brought back after the fall of Russia in 2001. It is a mixture of pagan and Russian Orthodox pre – Lenten traditions and customs. It is a week long celebration of live music, folk dancing, fairy tale themed village, games, and a honey tasting drink like mead. The blini is the star of the show topped with the traditional condiments of caviar, smoked fish, sour cream, cheese, or butter. A virtual effigy is burned instead of a real one making for interesting modern touch.
Libation: Kauffman Luxury Vintage Vodka