MARDI GRAS TRADITIONS
The earliest mention of a Carnival celebration is recorded in a 12th-century Roman account of the pope and Roman citizens watching a parade through the city, followed by the killing of steers and other animals. The purpose was to play and eat meat before Ash Wednesday, which marked the beginning of Catholic Lent - the forty-day fast leading up to Easter. The Latin term carnem levare, to remove oneself from flesh or meat, was used to refer to the festival.
The pre-Lenten celebration grew in popularity over the next few centuries, spreading to other European cities and rural communities. Italians eventually shortened the name to Carnevale - flesh farewell - and the word was translated into Spanish and Portuguese as Carnaval, into English as Carnival, and into German as Karneval. Other terms are also used for the festival such as the British English - Shrove Tide (fasting time), the Swiss-German - Fasnacht (night before fasting), and the French - Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).
By the 15th and 16th centuries Carnival had become a raucous tradition featuring boisterous games and masquerades adopted from a variety of late winter and early spring festival practices with pre-Christian roots. Carnival continued to evolve in Europe throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, while colonists from Spain, Portugal, and France carried this festival tradition into North and South America.
Today Carnival is celebrated all over the world with many different rites and traditions. To learn more please choose a celebration:
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