If you’ve been living in Barcelona for a few seasons now, you’ll have noticed the unique period when the days are finally getting a bit longer and sunnier, and the daytime temperatures are rising. It is the season before Lent, and a massive celebration is just around the corner.
The first spring festival of the year, Carnival signifies a rebirth – a transition from darkness into light, coldness into warmth. It is usually celebrated in February or early March and was meant to drive away evil winter spirits. Traditionally, Carnival was celebrated as a grand feast, a last meal before all the winter food stock was expected to go bad. The festivities would take place as a prelude to Lent, a period six weeks before Easter when members of the Catholic church are expected to fast, study, refrain from eating rich or opulent foods, and generally abstain from anything pleasurable.
People would gather as a community to take part in giant celebrations – which date back to as early as the 4th century – and disguised themselves in costumes, often posing as animals or members of the opposite sex. It was also common that the upper or ruling class would be mocked. Because of the approaching Lenten season, the parties were (and still are) rather hedonistic. All expected social behaviours and norms are suspended. There is usually excessive alcohol consumption, mock battles such as food fights, and freakishly abnormal body parts involved in the costumes – huge noses, bellies, mouths, animal parts. Every Carnival party usually consists of a public parade, masks or costumes, and a street party.
These Carnival celebrations are celebrated all over the world, the most famous being in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and Venice. Sitges, a small seaside town about 35 kilometres outside of the Barcelona, throws a serious one-week bash if you are interested in joining in on a Carnival celebration. Get your costume ready and be prepared to enter a completely different world.
Have you ever experienced a Carnival celebration? Tell us about it! We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.