Top European Carnivals You Should Know About

Carnivals – celebrated before a period of mourning, to commemorate a particular occasion or to honor the traditions of a bygone era.

The festivities are around the corner when the streets are filled with music, costumes are meticulously prepared and the parades are lively with music and dance. We cover some of these just what  European extravaganzas are below!

Carnival de Menton (France)

France is known traditionally for its vineyards, wine and cheese. It, however. has another attraction in the city of Menton, located in the southeast of France on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea.

The ‘Carnival de Menton’ is an annual event held in February. At the end of winter, this festival celebrates the yield of lemons and other citrus fruits and flowers. This 15-day carnival has its floats, outfits and decorations themed after citrus fruits. The displays feature large sculptures blanketed with citrus fruits. The brightly colored parade procession also features floats surrounded by musicians and artists.

The citrus family being large will give you a showcase of flowers and fruits produced by locals in their stalls. Numerous attractions are in place through the festive period, including L’exposition De Motifs D’agrumes (The Exhibition Of Citrus Patterns), Le Salon De L’artisanat (The Craft Fair), and Randonnée Du Citron (Lemon Hike). 

As the story goes, this carnival has been held annually since the 1930s and was started as a way to attract more tourists to the city. The event claims to have had 200,000 annual visitors and uses up to 180 Tons of citrus produce.

The theme of the 2022 event held from 2nd to 27th February is ‘Operas and Dances. You can check out more about this carnival by clicking here. This festival has been recognized by the Ministry of Culture of France.

Carnival di Ivrea (Italy)

Italy is famous for its Risotto, Pizza and pasta, and you can also add oranges to that list. The industrial city of Ivrea, located in the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy, hosts the ‘Carnival di Ivrea’. The events of this festival are similar to those of Spain’s La Tomatina. It is an all-out war between different teams who hold their ground at designated locations. Their target is a chariot that is paraded through the city while being armored with oranges. The battle festivities come to an end with a formal parade of bands and floats on Shrove Tuesday. Almost 25 tons of oranges are used during the festivities.

Carnival di Ivrea represents the townspeople’s rebellion against a tyrant. During this carnival, the ‘Battaglia Delle Arance’ takes place over a three-day period leading up to Ash Wednesday. There are a total of nine teams located in different parts of the city that take on different roles representing the people and the oppressors. The teams are characterized by color-coordinated attires which resemble the outfits of yesteryears.

The origins of this activity are said to be from a miller’s daughter who revolted against a Lord who claimed the right to spend a night with the newlywed bride of the town. It is said she instigated the people’s rebellion when she cut off his head in his chamber. The battle of the oranges is viewed as an event of liberation.

More on the activities founder here.

 

Carnival Of Basel (Switzerland)

Switzerland the Country of chocolates, banks and the Alpes mountains, its capital city of Basel hosts its annual  ‘Basler Fasnacht’ in the days before Ash Wednesday.

There are many origin stories to mark the beginning of Carnival Of Basel – following the old practice of sacrifice, a festival to drive out demons or to denote the end of the winter season. The carnival commences at 4 AM with a marching band knowns as a ‘Clique’ parading the city. This is a march in darkness with only decorative and artistic lanterns to guide the parade.

The carnival boasts huge parades, multiple stings of musical performances, open-air exhibitions lanterns and more! Each day has a different segment of performers and artists that showcase their talent. It is a three-day festival that concludes in the early morning of Maunday Thursday. At its conclusion, everyone is said to return to normal working life and toil until the next year!

The Carnival of Basel has been included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage since 2017.

 

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival (Spain)

The Capital of the Canary Islands, the city of Santa Cruz, hosts the ‘Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival’. This extravaganza normally takes place before the Lenten season, just before ash Wednesday. This year 2022, due to the pandemic, it will be held in the month of June. Annually, the carnival selects different themes for their costumes and parades. Previous themes include ‘Hollywood’, ‘Horror Films’, ‘Caribbean ‘. The 2021 carnival was held virtually due to Covid and the theme for the 2022 event will be ‘Sci-fi’.  

The festivities begin a week before the actual carnival, commencing with electing a carnival queen. During the celebrations, the streets are lit up with are parades including floats, shows, live performances and dances groups. Masks, colorful outfits, multiple games and competitions and contests are held on the streets. Crossdressing at this event is very popular. The Burning of the Sardine is a ceremony that marks the end of the festivities. A patched-up paper sardine is burnt as a symbol of purification from evil. More on the carnival here.

This carnival also has a dedicated showroom that stores previous year’s costumes, posters and other interesting items related to past festivals.

 

Copenhagen Carnival (Denmark)

A more recent carnival having only its first edition in 1982, Denmark’s Copenhagen Carnival is held in the warmer months of the year. It takes place over three days leading up to Pentecost Sunday. Since its beginning, it has grown to be one of the biggest celebrations in the country. The festival is heavily influenced by the Rio carnival in Brazil. 

Copenhagen Carnival is a fun-filled parade featuring vibrantly colorful costumes, dancing groups and musicians. This carnival parade takes place on the streets of Copenhagen and in Faelledparken – (Copenhagen’s largest park). There are numerous tents set up for different genres of live music like electronic, samba and steelpan music. The venue also hosts interactive workshops and food stalls.

A ‘Sambadrome’ is also present for samba and other dance performances. The carnival hosts a play area for children with multiple activities for their entertainment. Commencing on Saturday morning, you will find an array of costumes, floats, and samba performers too at the parade!

The three-day carnival is scheduled to take place from 3rd to 5th June this year. 

 

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