Carnival around the world: From Rio to the Rhine
During the week before Lent, are unpacking their costumes and getting ready to party — not just in Germany, but all over the world. Here's a selection of top carnival hot spots.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Lots of bare skin, glitter and samba music — those are the ingredients for the world's most famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Nearly 90,000 spectators sit on the grandstands for six evenings watching the samba school parades. Afterwards, the celebrations continue on the streets and in bars and restaurants.
This festival, famed for its elaborate masks, was first documented in 1286. Whether at the gondola parade that winds through the city's canals, or at the lavish costume balls in the palazzi, people concealed behind their masks can enjoy the wildest revelry without betraying their identities.
Carnival revelers here need to have a head for high altitudes, as the provincial capital Oruro lies 3,700 meters (12,130 feet) above sea level. Handmade masks and traditional costumes are the highlight of the festive processions through the streets, which last for three days and symbolize the struggle between good and evil.
New Orleans, United States
Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday" — another name for Shrove Tuesday — is the culmination of the carnival period in New Orleans. Lavishly decorated floats, whimsical costumes and the sound of jazz music let the good times roll, especially in the French Quarter.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Carnival in the Caribbean means opulent costumes made of feathers and rhinestones, hot calypso beats and a glass or two of rum. And at 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), it's sure to be a steamy celebration.
But what about carnival at freezing temperatures? To stay warm, try a Caribou cocktail, a mixture of brandy, vodka, sherry and port. This traditional drink is as much a part of the winter festival in Quebec as its mascot, the snowman, a white figure in a red cap known as Bonhomme Carnaval. The event is like a huge family party, with sports competitions, big parades and plenty of fun in the snow.
Carnival in Eastern Europe is usually steeped in folklore, as in the southern Hungarian town of Mohacs. For centuries, it has been the custom to drive out the winter while wearing wooden masks and sheepskin costumes. The Buso festivities in Mohacs have been part of the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2009.
On Weiberfastnacht, aka "Women's Carnival Day," women cut off men's neckties and generously dispense kisses. The street carnival on the Rhine is colorful, exuberant and very merry indeed. Celebrations become political on Rosenmontag, or Shrove Monday, when floats with satirical themes take to the streets. It all ends on Ash Wednesday in the German carnival strongholds.
These are the latecomers among the revelers on the Rhine. Basel residents don't celebrate the Basler Fasnacht, as it's called, until the week after Ash Wednesday. To do so, they don masks and costumes and march to the sound of drums and piccolos. It all starts at 4 a.m. on Monday and ends 72 hours later, at 4 a.m. on Thursday.
Bonoua, Ivory Coast
Every April, tens of thousands of people travel to the town of Bonoua in southeast Ivory Coast to celebrate the Popo (mask) Carnival. Gay men and women also take part in the procession, despite the fact that homosexuality, though not illegal, remains a taboo. Here, revelers rule!