[Pictured above: Carnival revelers posing in Venice, Italy]
Carnival - whether in Brazil, New Orleans, India, Greece, Trinidad & Tobago, Venice and other parts of Europe and the U.S. - is an annual worldwide festive celebration chock full of parades, public street parties, fireworks, masquerade balls, costumes and pageants that all typically take place during the month of February leading up to Lent. The origins of the word carnival are disputed, from the Italian carne levare meaning to remove meat, to the Late Latin expression carne vale which means farewell to meat, to the term Carrus Navalis (ship cart), the name of the roman festival of Isis, where Isis' image was carried to the sea-shore to bless the start of the sailing season. But no matter the actual origins of the word, Carnival customs can be traced back to antiquity in Greece. They are related to the celebrations in honor of the pagan god Dionysus, where enthusiasm, gaiety and banter prevailed. When Christianity became the dominant religion, elements of ancient Greek worship were incorporated into the customs and traditions pertaining to the period before Lent. [Source: gnto.gr] Likewise, Carnival has been celebrated as early as 1268 in Venice, Italy and as early as the 17th century when early French settlers brought the party to Louisiana. Have you ever been to Carnival?