Friday, 14th August 2020

This Month's Magazine


So what reason do we have for partying and making merry during the gloomy wintry month of February? Some of you may have gone to Venice, others to Rio de Janeiro, but many would have stayed right here and discovered that Carnival is not as big in Spain

The concept of Carnival is known to go back to the time of Ancient Rome and possibly even earlier. However, a few centuries ago, the Italians adopted the tradition of holding a costume festival, to "let their hair down" before lent. As the Catholic religion forbade eating meat during lent the name is said to derive from "carnem levare", meaning abolish meat. 

Over time the significance took a non religious meaning and it became the people's day, the day of freedom, when all material things were permitted, hidden behind a mask or costume. This custom quickly spread from Italy to neighbouring France, Spain and Portugal, and then, as these countries began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnival.

Some of these celebrations have acquired world fame. Venice of course is considered the birth place of Carnival, a tradition that still holds true. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the name given to carnival by the French, has possibly reached higher fame in Louisiana, particularly New Orleans. This is probably because the French settlers mixed with the African-American population to create a more colourful and dynamic event that cannot fail to make news.


This seems to be true of any country where Caribbean people have settled. The most famous of all Carnivals, televised worldwide, takes place in Brazil, a country originally conquered by the Portuguese.  
Despite the festive spirit of the Andalucian people, Carnival celebrations suffered when General Franco abolished it during the Civil War with much opposition even after the war, probably because of its underlying significance for the freedom of the people and opposition to abstentions and prohibitions.

Carnival did survive in Cádiz and some of its neighbouring towns. The Spanish in general associate "Carnaval" with this town. Indeed it is the liveliest and most dazzling in Spain. It is famous for its amusing figurines and satirical song groups, which are even televised. El Puerto de Santa María, Chiclana de la Frontera, Medina-Sidonia, Rota, San Fernando and Algeciras, all in the province of and near Cádiz are also well known for their lavish Carnaval celebrations.

Nowadays most Andalucian towns have started re-adopting the Carnival; even the schools organise and stage fancy dress parades for the children. In the evening, the streets fill with children and adults in fancy dress; there is music, song, dance and a "Carnival Queen" contest as well as a contest for the most original fancy dress. Depending on the town, there may even be a Fire Works display to signify the end of the festivity.

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