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