It’s that time of year when winter is still hanging around and summer seems too far away. But around the world lots of people beat the blues by celebrating Carnival. I went to Mardi Gras in Alabama while the carnivals of Europe and Rio were in full swing and I was hugely impressed. This ancient tradition is believed to have started well before the roman’s but they did have festivities around this time of year too.
As the winter food stock came to an end people around Europe prepared for fasting that ended around the festival of the goddess ishtar or Easter as it became know in our calendar. The final day of gorging was Fat Tuesday which literally translated in Mardi Gras from the French Language. One of the many places where the French have left their mark in so many ways is the Deep South of the USA. Mobile in Alabama was at one time the richest city in America, when cotton was king and the free slave labour created the cotton used to export around the world.
There are several other Carnivals around Europe in Switzerland and Lanzarote and places you might not think would celebrate Mardi gras. I have been to other carnivals and the biggest one in Germany is Carnival in Cologne.
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Carnival in Cologne is almost as old as the history of the city itself. But it has been celebrated in the organized fashion we know today for only about 190 years. The Greeks and the Romans celebrated joyous spring festivals in honor of Dionysus and Saturn with wine, women and song. The ancient Germans celebrated the winter solstice in order to pay homage to the gods and drive out the evil demons of winter. In later times, the Christians adopted these heathen customs. Lent, the period of fasting before Easter, was ushered in by carnival (carne vale = Farewell to meat!).
To Find out all you need to know about Cologne check out the German Tourist Board official site www.germany.travel
Cologne Cathedral is a building of superlatives that is the centre and hallmark of this city on the Rhine. The cornerstone of this Gothic cathedral was laid on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on 15 August 1248. The previous building was apparently no longer deemed impressive enough to house the remains of the Three Wise Men, which Archbishop Rainald von Dassel had brought to Cologne from Milan after the latter city was conquered in 1164. Because of these relics, the cathedral became one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Europe. Its two massive towers have dominated the city’s skyline since their completion in 1880. At 157.38 metres, the northern tower is 7cm taller than the southern one.
Today the cathedral is Cologne’s second-tallest structure, surpassed only by the telecommunications tower. The cathedral covers almost 8,000 square metres of floor space and can hold more than 20,000 people. Due to the building’s impressive Gothic architecture, the shrine of the Three Wise Men, the outstanding stained-glass windows and the many other important works of art, UNESCO declared Cologne Cathedral a World Heritage Site in 1996.
Venice has a Carnival Too!
Among Italy’s most beloved carnivals, particular mention goes to the Carnival of Venice.
The first official document with which the Carnival of Venice was declared a public celebration dates back to 1296 – an edict by the Senate of the “most Serene Republic,” making the day before Lent a holiday.
Established by the Venetian oligarchy as a concession to the people, its objective was fun and merrymaking, where the mask dominated as a means to briefly ignore any signs of belonging to social class, gender or religion.
Today the Carnival of Venice is an evocative and much-anticipated popular fest, unique in terms of its history, its masks and its atmosphere. Highly-reputed and appreciated in all the world, it brings thousands of tourists to Italy every year.
During the Lagoon’s two-week Carnival celebration, all can watch and take part in the numerous events and displays filling the piazzas and main waterways of the city.
As in the past, private parties and masquerade balls still happen behind the scenes today, inside Venice’s grand noble palaces. In these places, where time seems to stand still, guests can jump into this world of ancient splendor, reliving the Carnival tradition of long ago.
Some of the most spectacular moments during the Venetian carnival are the Flight of the Angel (or Flight of Colombina), a tradition that began with a Turkish acrobat in mid-1500s. In this amazing spectacle an artist in flesh and bone hangs from a metal cable, and, suspended in air, makes his descent from the top of St. Mark’s Bell Tower to the Doge’s Palace. It is a magnificent sight to see!
Venice, city of art and UNESCO World Heritage Site, exudes its charm all throughout the year, but only Carnival can render it even more magical than it already is!
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Visit the Italian tourist board here for information on Carnival http://www.italia.it/en
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