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History of Carnival

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Carnaval Venecia - Spanish Tapas Madrid

Hello, there! Next February 7th 2016 starts the joyful Carnival(written “Carnaval” in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Dutch and “Carnevale” in Italian). There are many theories about the word carnival. It has two parts: carni (in latin “carne” it means either meat or flesh) and val (in latin “vale” that means bye). As a summary, it is a period you say goodbye to flesh and meat before a fasting time like Lent.

Venitian Carnavale, such misterious masks

Hello, there!
Next February 7th 2016 starts the joyful Carnival (written “Carnaval” in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Dutch and “Carnevale” in Italian).

There are many theories about the word carnival. It has two parts: carni (in latin “carne” it means either meat or flesh) and val (in latin “vale” that means bye). As a summary, it is a period you say goodbye to flesh and meat before a fasting time like Lent.

Also, when the winter is coming to an end some Germanic tribes used the remaining butter and meat they had stored for the cold period right before it became rotten. After that, they would have a period of shortage of food so they had to eat as much as they could. Very frequently it has been applied to sexual desire too...

Carnival day is always celebrated on a Tuesday. This is so because it has to be the day before Ash Wednesday. But celebrations start the previous Thursday, this year, February 4th( in Spain called “Jueves Lardeo”).

Carnival in the world

In 2016, Ash Wednesday is February 10th therefore Carnival Day has to be February 9th, actually this day is the last of the Carnival celebrations.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, when Christians celebrate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert as an spiritual time of reflection. Therefore, the date of the Carnivals are established indirectly by the Catholic Church because it depends on when Easter Sunday is set. This year Easter Sunday is March 27. It has to do with the moon calendar. If you ever noticed, Friday of Passion is always full moon.

The first modern parade of carnival happened in Cologne (Germany) in 1823. Previously the Carnival of Venice was very popular but Napoleon abolished it in 1797. In 1979 the tradition was restored.

Today it is spread all over the world and has the most famous ones in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) with their colorful parades and their sense of rhythm. In Spain on the Canary Islands we have the “Reina del Carnaval” where the most beautiful ladies wear the most amazing outfits. In Cadiz the famous "Chirigotas" make the funniest sung parodies.

Canary Island Carnaval Queen

Carnival in Madrid

In Madrid there's a curious tradition by which we sadly bury the sardine on Ash Wednesday, the end of Carnival. Why is that? Why are we so strange in Madrid?

There's an explanation. They say it is because you bury what represents vice and corruption to enter a period of reflection. Mr. Carnal (Carnival) and Mrs. Cuaresma(Lent) are part of the burlesque “parodia”.

Some say that during the celebration of Carnival under the Kingdom of Carlos I of Spain, second half of the 1700's he ordered sardines for the common people. It took three days to bring them from the coast line. The weather those days was quite warm for the season.

As a result, the sardines arrived to Madrid already rotten. As the smell was so terrible, the had to bury them as soon as possible, just in time to finish Carnival. Even Francisco de Goya has a painting called “El entierro de la sardina” (the burial of the sardine).

Madrid's traditional burial of the sardine

Francisco de Goya's painting of the end of Carnival

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