Daily Picture Show

Carnival

Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season, a 40-day period associated with fasting and piety in preparation for Easter. Many Christians mark the few days leading up to it with "carnival," the last opportunity to consume special foods and drinks lest they go to waste.

Carnival and its various spellings stem from the Milanese carne levale, which means "to remove meat" or "raise flesh"; Christians traditionally abstained from meat during Lent.

  • Brazil's annual carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is among the world's most famous. Dancers from the Salgueiro samba school join the celebration.
    Hide caption
    Brazil's annual carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is among the world's most famous. Dancers from the Salgueiro samba school join the celebration.
    Natacha Pisarenko/AP
  • A reveler, as carnival celebrants are called, dances during festivities in Panama City.
    Hide caption
    A reveler, as carnival celebrants are called, dances during festivities in Panama City.
    Arnulfo Franco/AP
  • In Haiti, dancers step out for a parade on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.
    Hide caption
    In Haiti, dancers step out for a parade on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.
    Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images
  • New Orleans' Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club sponsors an elegant parade, presided over by King Zulu. The club was founded in the early 1900s to aid the black community.
    Hide caption
    New Orleans' Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club sponsors an elegant parade, presided over by King Zulu. The club was founded in the early 1900s to aid the black community.
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images
  • A reveler sports a Mardi Gras bead collection on New Orleans' Bourbon Street.
    Hide caption
    A reveler sports a Mardi Gras bead collection on New Orleans' Bourbon Street.
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images
  • Costumed men cross the Danube before marching through the streets of Mohacs, Hungary. Such carnival festivities date to the 16th-century Ottoman occupation of Hungary, when Mohacs residents dressed in sheepskin to frighten off Turkish invaders.
    Hide caption
    Costumed men cross the Danube before marching through the streets of Mohacs, Hungary. Such carnival festivities date to the 16th-century Ottoman occupation of Hungary, when Mohacs residents dressed in sheepskin to frighten off Turkish invaders.
    Bela Szandelszky/AP
  • A fire-breathing reveler heats up the celebration in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 2003, UNESCO declared this carnival a "masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity." Introduced by Spaniards, it has incorporated elements of indigenous culture.
    Hide caption
    A fire-breathing reveler heats up the celebration in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 2003, UNESCO declared this carnival a "masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity." Introduced by Spaniards, it has incorporated elements of indigenous culture.
    Fernando Vergara/AP
  • Masked bands known as guggemuusige enliven the carnival in Lucerne, Switzerland. They play brass and percussion instruments.
    Hide caption
    Masked bands known as guggemuusige enliven the carnival in Lucerne, Switzerland. They play brass and percussion instruments.
    Urs Flueeler/KEYSTONE/AP
  • In Offenburg, Germany, revelers in witch costumes dance around a burning straw puppet. Burning a witch effigy — customary in Fasching or Karneval festivals in Germany, Switzerland and Austria — represents expelling evil spirits.
    Hide caption
    In Offenburg, Germany, revelers in witch costumes dance around a burning straw puppet. Burning a witch effigy — customary in Fasching or Karneval festivals in Germany, Switzerland and Austria — represents expelling evil spirits.
    Thomas Kienzle/AP
  • Dancers perform during the Vila Isabel samba school parade in Rio de Janeiro.
    Hide caption
    Dancers perform during the Vila Isabel samba school parade in Rio de Janeiro.
    Natacha Pisarenko/AP
  • A carnival queen weaves through the crowd during celebrations in Panama City.
    Hide caption
    A carnival queen weaves through the crowd during celebrations in Panama City.
    Arnulfo Franco/AP
  • Dancers from Rio's Beija Flor samba school glitter on parade.
    Hide caption
    Dancers from Rio's Beija Flor samba school glitter on parade.
    Ricardo Moraes/AP
  • Calatchi, or festive loafs, hang in a booth just outside Moscow's Kremlin. They're part of Maslenitsa, sometimes known as Pancake Week, a folk celebration with roots in pagan and Christian traditions.
    Hide caption
    Calatchi, or festive loafs, hang in a booth just outside Moscow's Kremlin. They're part of Maslenitsa, sometimes known as Pancake Week, a folk celebration with roots in pagan and Christian traditions.
    Misha Japaridze/AP
  • In Rio, dancers perform atop a Porto da Pedra samba school float.
    Hide caption
    In Rio, dancers perform atop a Porto da Pedra samba school float.
    Silvia Izquierdo/AP
  • In Mainz, German, a carnival float depicts President Obama propping up Lady Liberty.
    Hide caption
    In Mainz, German, a carnival float depicts President Obama propping up Lady Liberty.
    Daniel Roland/AP
  • Dancers perform in Rio de Janeiro.
    Hide caption
    Dancers perform in Rio de Janeiro.
    Natacha Pisarenko/AP
  • Observers watch a carnival parade from a Haitian tap-tap, or bus, in Port-au-Prince.
    Hide caption
    Observers watch a carnival parade from a Haitian tap-tap, or bus, in Port-au-Prince.
    Ariana Cubillos/AP
  • The city of New Orleans profits from its Mardi Gras celebrations, but it pays a price in cleaning up.
    Hide caption
    The city of New Orleans profits from its Mardi Gras celebrations, but it pays a price in cleaning up.
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

1 of 18

View slideshow i

For full screen, click on the four-cornered arrow icon in the viewer's bottom right.

Similar boisterous celebrations predate Christianity: the ancient Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalia, the Greek Dionysia and Russian Maslenitsa are just a few. Over time, carnival celebrations have spread around the world. Here's a look at some of the revelry that began last weekend.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.