The final day of this year’s Carnival is March 8. To help get you in the mood, here are 15 photos of the worldwide celebrations.

The history of the Carnaval is layered. From a pre-Christian angle, it’s a Roman celebration of spring. From a Christian angle, the last day of Carnaval is “Fat Tuesday” – the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent. Lent (the six weeks before Easter) is traditionally observed through sacrificing and fasting. So Carnival is the last hurrah before Lent, and “Fat Tuesday” is the day to consume any rich or fatty foods left in the house. From a secular party angle, it can be a socially acceptable opportunity to get plastered, watch parades, or throw a party.

For any etymology lovers and thanks to the History Channel:

In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or more literally “Fat Tuesday.” The word “carnival,” another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat.

Feature photo: sfmissions.com

1

Venetian Carnaval in Rosheim

1268 is the first time masks are mentioned in recorded history as being a part of the Venice Carnival. They were used to disguise the identity and social class of the wearer, and could only be worn during the festivities. Mussolini banned the celebration in the 1930s, but it was revived in the 1970s. (Visit Venice) Photo: Davide Cassenti

2

Las Llamadas

Las Llamadas (The Calls) parade in the neighborhoods of Sur and Palermao in Montevideo, Uruguay. The name comes from the tradition of gathering “used by the African immigrants to find one another during the Carnival. Each group used to have a couple of drums and get out into the streets playing the candombe in order to get the big group together to celebrate” (Welcome Uruguay). Photo: jikatu

3

Samba dancer in Sao Paulo

Panel Tom Maior, samba dancer, in this year's parades at the Sambadrome of Anhembi in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Globovisión

4

Carnival of the Country

Elaborate costumes are key at the Carnival of the Country in Gualeguaychú in Argentina. Photo: timsnell

5

Carnival of the Country

Then again, sometimes less is more. Photo: timsnell

6

Cologne Carnaval

The Rheinischer Carneval in Cologne, Germany: "Traditionally, the fifth season [Carnival season] is declared open at 11 minutes past eleven on the eleventh of November! The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended by the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again "in earnest" in the New Year. Street carnival, also called "the crazy days", takes places between Thursday (Women’s Carnival Day) before Rose Monday and ends on Ash Wednesday" (Kölner Karneval). Photo: LenDog64

7

Cigarrones in traditional costume

Cigarrones in traditional costume at Carnaval in Verín, Spain. Photo: rodcasro

8

The 2010 champions: Unidos da Tijuca

The top 6 of the 12 samba schools in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil compete in the Special Group Parade. The 2010 champions picture here: Unidos da Tijuca, one of the oldest samba schools in the city. Photo: rodcasro

9

Venetian Carnaval in Rosheim

Venetian-style carnival held this year in Rosheim, France. Photo: Photos de Daniel

10

Olney and Liberal Pancake Race

"Fat Tuesday" is also referred to as "Pancake Day" in England and Ireland. Pancake ingredients include butter and eggs - two foods that need to be used up before Lent begins. Celebrated in Olney, England with a road race, "It dates back to 1445 and it is believed all began with a townswoman late for the Shriving service at the Olney parish church" (Olney Online). In the 1950s, the small town of Liberal, Kansas (my home state) contacted the Olney organizers, and now the event is a competition between the two towns. The rules are: "Racers must still wear a head scarf and apron and the runner must flip her pancake at the starting signal, and again after crossing the finish line, to prove she still has her pancake" (Pancake Day). Photo: robinmyerscough

11

The Sambodrome in Rio de Janiero, Brazil

A float in the Sambodrome in Rio de Janiero, Brazil during the Special Group Parade in 2007. Photo: Marcus Correa

12

Battaglia delle Arance

Battaglia delle Arance (or Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea) Italy involves people in carts throwing oranges at people on foot and vice versa. It has changed a lot since the 1800s when serfs threw beans (given to them by their feudal lord) on the ground and at each other. The preferred ammo has been oranges since the 1950s. (Historical Carnival of Ivrea). Photo: TorinoBikeFriend

13

Venice Carnival

Checking out a masked reflection in Venice. Photo: titoalfredo de Carnaval

14

Krewe of Barkus New Orleans Mardi Gras

There are dozens of Krewes that parade during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana. But there's only one by and for the canine population: the Krewe of Barkus. Photo: djeo

15

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos

Medusa at the Carnaval de Negros y Blancos (Blacks and Whites) in Pasto, Colombia. The celebration is an official UNESCO event as of 2008. Photo: nandrega_

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