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Carnival celebrations across the world

Date posted: 21.02.2023

Today is Mardi Gras, known here in the UK as Shrove Tuesday, when we like to eat pancakes and debate what toppings we should put on them (for the record the ATOL team plumps for traditional sugar and lemon juice).

pancakes with butter

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, as it was according to Christian tradition the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting that took place throughout Lent.

In countries around the world, February is the Carnival season and we wanted to shine a light on some of the very best celebrations that happen around the world at this time of year.

If you are planning a last-minute trip to any of our destinations or looking ahead to booking for next year, remember to check if your package tour is financially protected by the ATOL scheme to protect against your travel firm going out of business.

An additional tip is to consider travel insurance to offer extra levels of protection against mishaps that could affect your break such as lost luggage, flight cancellations or illness.

New Orleans, USA

Mardi Gras arrived in North America in the late 17th century, when French settlers arrived in the territory of Louisiane, which included what are now the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and part of eastern Texas.

Today a number of US cities celebrate Mardi Gras, but it is New Orleans that is the biggest and best. World famous for its raucous Mardi Gras celebrations, NOLA turns into a giant party featuring music, parades, floats and costumed revellers wearing purple, green, and gold.

Running from the Epiphany Feast on 6 January, all the way until Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is famous for its beaded necklaces, thrown by party-goers on parade floats and the French balconies overlooking the festivities. Getting the most necklaces – and wearing them – is the name of the game for many attendees.

New Orleans at night
New Orleans

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilians like to party and so it is no coincide that the biggest, most spectacular and hedonistic celebration in the world takes place in Rio.

Rio Carnival usually takes place in the week before Lent, with the city becoming a whirl of flamboyant colour, costumes, music and dancing.

More than 100 Samba Schools compete to be crowned the best at the official Sambodrome parade, and there are parties and parades across the city attracting millions of samba crazy party people.

Samba dancers performing at a carnival

Venice, Italy

Held each February, in the run up to Lent, the Carnevale di Venezia starts with a religious procession through this historic city’s St Mark’s Square.

It is one of the most famous masked festivals in the world and the sight of thousands of people wearing fabulous costumes, wigs and ornate masks is certainly one to remember.

The iconic face masks originated from ancient Greek and Roman festivals and give the Venice carnival its distinctive look.

The event is less of a street party than other carnivals and instead revellers attend private galas and balls, where tickets need to be purchased in advance.

venice on a sunny day

Trinidad and Tobago

The Carnival of Trinidad and Tobago started as a rebellion against slavery, but is now into one of the biggest street parties in the Caribbean, attracting hundreds of thousands of partygoers wearing custom-made bathing suit–style costumes.

The whole island seems to come alive with steel drums, local street food, and dancing in the streets as people enjoy the rhythms of soca, limbo, calypso and, of course, a lots of local rum.

Trinidad and Tobago beach
Maracas Bay, Trinidad and Tobago

There are also Carnival celebrations in cities and towns throughout Europe and the Americas (including the intriguing Carnaval de Binche which sees thousands dress as Gilles, clown-like characters, who throw oranges at bystanders).

Let us know your Carnival stories on the ATOL Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels.


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