The carnivals are celebrated for thousands of years. Some say it was already celebrated, especially in the Middle Ages in ancient Egypt 5,000 years ago, while others date back to the Roman Empire, resulting from the festivities of Saturnalia or the winter holidays in Rome and Bacchus, the god of wine, from which the word bacchanalia came, which was a party without limits.
Among Christian people, when during Lent is observed very strict fasting and extraordinary penances, the Carnival was the feast that was celebrated three days before Ash Wednesday, the day when Lent begins, and consisted of eating, drinking and plenty of dancing. It was an way to merge the pagan festivals of Saturnalia and bacchanalia and include it in the Christian calendar. The celebrations lasted three days before the beginning of Lent.
It was later introduced masks, made famous in the eleventh century Venice Carnival. The masks were used to hide the face, and those of the Carnival were the only days when on the streets, the noble were confused as commoners and slaves danced and ate relentlessly.
In the Latin countries of Europe, the Carnival starts already in the previous week, with the celebration of the Fat Tuesday or mardi gras and Fat Thursday, where people eat pork sausages.
Numerous Latin American carnivals figure Rey Momo or King Momo, a central character and in some countries of the Mediterranean, it is the king of the carnival festivities and is represented by a bad or evil puppet, which receives the scorn or admiration of the extras.
Carnival is very popular in Europe and in Latin America and even in Africa, where there was already a long tradition in the use of masks, very showy costumes and dances. Among others, the Carnivals of Nigeria, Tanzania and Congo are very famous.
In Asia the Carnival was celebrated coinciding with the middle of winter or of summer. The conquistadors from Spain and Portugal exported the carnival festivities in Latin America, which ended up being in the continent as the most famous Carnival. The best known is obviously in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, which combines two traditions that of the Portuguese conquistadors and that of blacks from Africa, who imported the samba, the typical dance in Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
There is no Carnival without the samba and indeed, the world's largest open-air theater is the Sambadrome in Rio, where the streets are filled by the Brazilian samba school's parade of floats filled with masked people, especially women in skimpy dresses dancing the samba. There are also sambadrome in other countries, such as Paraguay, where the third largest sambodromo in Latin America was built.
The samba is not the only typical and tropical dance of the Central American countries, and they are also famous Carnivals of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Colombia, Argentina and Chile, to name a few. Each country brings its own characteristics to the Carnival festivities, although the essence is always the same with fashion shows, food and drink in abundance, dances, extras, masks, disguises and parades to the sound of traditional country music, always cheerful and lively.
Carnival is celebrated not only in the capitals, but in all the cities, as in Europe. Alongside the skimpy outfits worn by some women, there are also those are a real work of art, such as the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands in Spain, where people elect the Queen of the Carnival.
Colombia is famous Carnival for the Barranquilla, and in Mexico, Carnival is a lure for tourism from the United States. In Ecuador, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Cuba and El Salvador, the Carnival is a popular festival and coincides with the three days preceding Ash Wednesday.
In many places the Carnival ends with the burial of the sardine, the typical fish in the Middle Ages. There was much discussion about whether or not the Carnival is a pagan reality. Tradition says yes, and in some Carnivals Spanish extras also use clothing and symbols that ridicule the Christian religion, as disguises by bishops and popes.
Many wonder if the Carnival is a Christian holiday, and the answer is No, even if people have taken advantage of this celebration to coincide with the Christian calendar of Lent and Holy Week. Carnival is a pagan origin festivity from the Middle Ages and that the Church of Rome has tolerated, as was the case in all civilizations in which there were days per year devoted to unbridled celebrations.
Indeed Easter and its symbols, are not, therefore, as some believe, necessarily a gimmick to do business, to foment consumption. The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a magnificent festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre. When the Christian missionaries of the second century came in contact with the northern tribes and their pagan celebrations, as their habit, they tried to convert them to Christianity.
Because it would be dangerous for the newly-converted Christians to renounce totally to their former traditions and adopt new ones entirely different, the missionaries have come up with a very witty solution overlaying the pagan Christian holidays. Their strategy is, therefore, was to spread their dogma slowly throughout the populations by allowing it to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but in a Christian way.
As well as for Christmas, even the pagan celebration of spring was absorbed by the new religion, preserving the period and changing its content and meaning to the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the same festival was changed giving it a Christian denomination, to proceed to the slow indoctrination of pagans.
Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is a celebration, sometimes called Carnival and is practiced throughout the world on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It was conceived as a way to give free rein to the passions, anciently, to bid goodbye to the winter, which was nearly over and consume what had remained of the winter provisions, before a period of sacrifices and austerity that would have resulted in the explosion of spring nature.