This is a smaller Mardi Gras than most, though it is beginning to get on the map due to their heavy duty, one of a kind Mardi Gras tradition. Binche is a Belgian town of 32,000 near the French border. They have a Mardi Gras folk tradition dating back to the 14th century, that UNESCO has designated a cultural treasure in the same class as Japan’s Nôgaku theater and Lithuania’s symbolic cross crafting.
After the early wake-up call, a breakfast of Champagne and oysters is customary. During the carnival, you’ll see Pierrot, Harlequin, and peasant costumes, but the central characters are the Gilles—local men wearing wax masks, wooden clogs, and elaborate black, red, and yellow costumes that are stuffed with hay and adorned with white collars and bells. In the mid-afternoon, nearly 1,000 Gilles converge on the town’s Grand Place, trade their masks for large ostrich-feather headdresses, sing, dance, and pelt the crowd with blood oranges, a symbol of fertility.
The Carnival of Binche is during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the best known of several that take place in Belgium at the same time.
Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.
The centrepiece of the carnival’s proceedings are the clown-like Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on Shrove Tuesday, they range in age from 3 to 60 years old, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival’s final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward off evil spirits with sticks.
Later during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost more than $300 to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange-throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this. The oranges are considered good luck because they are a gift from the Gilles and it is an insult to throw them back.
Brazilian Carnival, accurately spelled Carnaval, is an annual festival in Brazil. It is held four days before Ash Wednesday, the day of fasting and repentance that marks the beginning of Lent.
Rio de Janeiro is the most famous city for carnival in Brazil. In carnival the different samba schools compete for the first place in elaborate parades that last for hours. In carnival all dancers wear incredible costumes of sequins and feathers. Rio became famous in the 1930′s for their parades, parties, and balls, which become larger and more impressive every year. The parade’s history began in 1928 and used to take different routes through the city before settling on its current path. Carnival parades pass through the enormous Sambodromo, a sort of long stadium. If you want to join in the samba parade, samba schools are always looking for extra performers to be part of the show.
Carnival is the most famous Brazilian holiday. During this time, Brazil attracts 70% of its tourists. Variations in carnival celebrations are observed throughout the multitude of Brazilian cities. Yet, a commonality observed among them is the incorporation of samba into the celebrations. The southeastern cities of Brazil have massive parades that take place in large sambadromes. The largest carnival celebration in Brazil and the world occurs in Rio de Janeiro, where two million people celebrate in the city. The city of Salvador also holds a large carnival celebration.
The carnival begins when Rio’s mayor hands over a huge gold and silver key to Rei Momo, the Fat King. A very large number of mini street parties are held prior to the carnival proper getting underway. Smaller local parades known as blocos are held across the city and attract thousands of spectators. Despite there being 17,000 portable toilets dotted around the city for the carnival, a Pee Patrol has been appointed to clamp down on revellers urinating in the streets. Over 1/4 million jobs will be created by Carnival and it will generate £420 million for local hotels, restaurants and bars. Carnival is Brazil’s most important festival but celebrations are held in Sao Paulo, Salvador, Olinda, Recife, Manaus and Porto Alegre.
20 Interesting facts about Rio Carnival from the Trinidad Express-
1. The carnival is a wild four-day party held 40 days before Easter.
2. It started yesterday and ends on ‘Fat Tuesday’, the day before the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday.
3. February is the hottest month of the year in Rio and the city is at its liveliest.
4. The roots of the carnival can be traced back to the Romans and Greeks who celebrated the arrival of spring with parties.
5. These traditions were carried over to the New World with Portuguese immigrants in the 1700s.
6. Their ‘Entrudo’ festival saw revellers throwing water, limes, mud and even food at each other.
7. Brazil’s carnival evolved over time with the addition of masquerade balls and then big street parades with groups of people playing music and dancing.
8. Today, carnival takes place in the city’s streets, bars and clubs.
9. Hundreds of street bands, singers and orchestras will entertain party-goers largely with samba music.
10. The carnival highlight, though, is the Samba Parade, a fierce competition between Rio’s samba schools, of which there are nearly 200.
11. Held in the purpose-built Sambodromo, the schools are judged on their elaborate floats, costumes, dancing and music.
12. Some of the schools are expected to spend up to £3 million on outfits and preparations.
13. The city’s poorest residents, from the slums, typically make up the majority of the schools.
14. Around two million people per day are expected to take to the streets this year.
15. The carnival begins when Rio’s mayor hands over a giant silver and gold key to Rei Momo, the Fat King.
16. Scores of mini street parties are held prior to the carnival proper getting underway. Smaller local parades known as ‘blocos’ are held across the city and attract thousands of spectators.
17. Despite there being 17,000 portable toilets dotted around the city for the carnival, a Pee Patrol has been appointed to clamp down on revellers urinating in the streets.
18.1/4 million jobs will be created by Carnival and it will generate £420 million for local hotels, restaurants and bars.
19. Carnival is Brazil’s most important festival but celebrations are held in Sao Paulo, Salvador, Recife, Olinda, Manaus and Porto Alegre.
20. Carnival attracts more and more celebrities with Jennifer Lopez attending last year’s event and Gangnam Style star Psy expected this weekend (from 2014).
Rio and New Orleans are often considered the most desirable Carnivals to visit. I’ve been to Rio, but not for Carnival. I’m very tempted to go in the near future. Since my parade, Krewe du Vieux, rolls very early- January 31 for 2015- I can participate in my parade and the first weekend here before flying to Rio. I’m getting excited just writing this entry!
I’ve been to a major music publishing trade show at the Palais de Festivals in Cannes, France a number of times. Same place as the Cannes Film Festival. The show occurs in January, and more than once we came to France around Mardi Gras time. Nice and Cannes are very close together, both are on the Riviera aka the Mediterranean, they are next door neighbors. So I’ve been to Mardi Gras in Nice a couple of times, and had a very nice and somewhat wild time.
Nice’s Carnaval, which dates back to 1294 and is today the largest in France, includes many iconic trappings of a Mardi Gras celebration. Parades of floats topped with papier-mâché “big heads” make their way down the Place Masséna (the procession is illuminated at night); street performers add to the entertainment; and for the finale, an effigy of King Carnaval is burned and fireworks light up the sky. But the centerpiece of the annual fête is the Flower Battle. A tradition of exchanging bouquets and decorating carriages in the 19th century grew into a gorgeous parade of blossom-bedecked floats.
Until the 18th century, Carnival was punctuated by masked balls and frenzied farandoles (dancers) in the streets of what is now Old Nice. During the major political and military upheavals caused by the French Revolution and the First Napoleonic Empire, Carnival festivities were suspended.
In 1830, a first cortège was organized in honour of King Charles-Felix and Queen Marie-Christine, rulers of Piedmont-Sardinia. Some thirty carriages paraded in front of the monarchs, announcing the future form of Carnival. Any excesses were soon controlled by the “Abbés des Fous” (Fools’ abbots), entrusted by the clergy with supervising the people’s revelry. In 1873, Nice began using decorative staging, float processions and stands for the spectators. It was then that Nice Carnival entered the modern era.
Since 2005, the decorations have synced up with each year’s Carnaval theme (the King of Sport theme for 2012 is in honor of the upcoming London Olympics). Instead of beads, costumed revelers riding the floats toss up to 100,000 flowers into the crowd. Even ganses, a Niçoise variation on fried dough (similar to beignets and bugnes), get a festive flourish of orange flower water.
From January 31 – February 17, 2015, Venice will slough off the winter gloom and burst into life. During the Carnival (Carnevale), this most magical of cities fills with a mass of masked party-goers – posing and preening, dancing and philandering, in a slightly surreal re-invention of a great tradition of the city.
Glancing at the portrayals of 18th-century Venetian life in the works of Pietro Longhi or Gabriele Bella in the Querini Stampalia gallery (querinistampalia.it) or the Ca’ Rezzonico museum (visitmuve.it) will reveal that that was exactly what Venice in its party prime was all about. It’s not for everybody. It can be intensely crowded, and rates in hotels and restaurants soar. But it is a unique occasion, and a great time to see the city in a new and exciting light.
In truth, those that get here mid-week during the first week might wonder what all the fuss is about: besides the skating rink in Campo San Polo and a handful of low-grade events in out-of-the-way corners, there’s not a lot to keep you busy. If it’s excitement you want, aim for the weekends, and the final weekend in particular. see the carnival website (carnevale.venezia.it) for more details.
- “The Best Masked Costume Contest” in St. Mark’s Square Gran Finale
- Volo dell’Asino (Flight of the Donkey) from the Piazza Ferretto Tower in Mestre
Carnevale: a history of masks
The Venetian propensity for hiding behind masks was legendary: a rigid caste system coupled with ample opportunities for indulging in a host of vices made anonymity very desirable in an overcrowded city where detection was otherwise unavoidable. In the 13th century a law was passed banning masks while gambling. Later norms made it illegal to make masked visits to convents, or to wear masks during many religious festivals.
In the end, it was easier to stipulate when masks could be worn: most importantly, in a crescendo of frantic merry making, from Boxing Day until Shrove Tuesday – the period known as Carnevale (from carnem and vale, Latin for “meat” and “farewell”: a reference to the Church’s ban on eating meat during Lent). The French stamped out the festivities when they took command of the city in 1797. And so it remained until 1979 when it dawned on local authorities that a revamped Carnevale would boost tourism in the city at a quiet, damp, misty time of year. The festival now lasts for two weeks in the run-up to Lent.
If everything to do with Venice’s Carnival gets too much, the Veneto region offers a host of alternatives, including a magnificent procession of floats in Treviso over the final Carnevale weekend, and the carnival in Verona, this latter claiming superiority over Venice having run uninterrupted since 1531. On the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, a great fat “king” parades through the street with a gnocco (dumpling) impaled on his sceptre, at the head of a procession of floats and costumed citizens.
Carnival or Mardi Gras goes by many names in Germany, depending on the region and dialect. Whether you call it Fastnacht, Fasching or Karneval, it is a time for revelry, humor, and satire. They are all one and the same thing: pre-Lenten festivities celebrated in grand style in mostly the predominantly catholic regions of the German-speaking countries. The Rhineland has its Karneval; Austria, Bavaria and Berlin calls theirs Fasching; and the German Swiss celebrate Fastnacht.
Fasching, also nicknamed fünfte Jahreszeit or närrische Saison by Germans, officially begins in most regions in Germany on the eleventh of November at 11:11 am or the day after Dreikönigstag, so on January 7th. The big bash celebrations are however not on the same given date each year, instead the date varies depending on when Easter is held. Fasching culminates into Fasching week which begins the week before Ash Wednesday.
- Weiberfastnacht - Thursday before Ash Wednesday. This is mainly an event held in the Rhineland. The day begins with women storming into and symbolically taking over city hall. Then, women throughout the day will snip off men’s ties and kiss any man that passes their way. The day ends with people going to local venues and bars in costume.
- Parties, Celebrations and Parades - People will celebrate in costume at various carnival community events and individual parties. Carnival parades abound, it is literally the weekend for people to live it up.
- Rosenmontag - The largest and most popular carnival parades take place on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. These parades come mostly from the Rhineland region. People throughout the German-speaking countries will tune in to watch the biggest German carnival parade of all which is held in Cologne.
- Fastnachtsdienstag - Besides some parades which are held on this day, you have the burial or burning of the Nubbel. A Nubbel is a life-size doll made of straw that embodies all of the sins committed during carnival season. It is buried or burned with great ceremony on Tuesday evening before everyone parties one more time till Ash Wednesday arrives.
I’ve written about Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans before. I haven’t been to Italy for Carnival but I do plan on going in the not so distant future. Italy is a wonderful land with a ton of historic attractions and beautiful places to hang out.
Among the many attractions of perhaps the world’s most beloved Italian region, Tuscanythe Carnival of Viareggio deserves a place of honor: it is one of the most important and appreciated carnivals internationally, one in which thousands of people – tourists and Italians alike – participate every year.
It was conceived in 1873 as a masquerade event for the rich bourgeois in their discontent at having to pay very high tax. Through the course of time, though, its principal characteristic has become its enormous, animated parade floats. Atop these floats that parade along the coast of Viareggio, gigantic paper-mache caricatures of the big political, cultural and showbiz names dominate.
They are extraordinary machines with movements that become increasingly complex with each year, showing off the ideal marriage between grandiose scenographic effects, new technologies and, of course, the mastery of Italian artistic talent.The massive floats were first built by the world famous ship builders of Viareggio. These men were skilled carpenters and ironmongers who were well used to building large ships strong enough to travel across oceans. In 1925, the use of papier mache was introduced which meant that as the floats were now lightweight, as well as strong, they could become even larger and more elaborate.
The entire Carnival of Viareggio is accompanied by masked and musical all-nighters in the streets. These parties find their origins in the so-called “colored all-night dances” (veglioni colorati) from the 1920s – where the women donned dresses of certain hues and dyes, and the men had to appear in tuxedo. Even the decorations, confetti and tinsel stars had to follow a specific color theme. Today, the most fashionable bars and locales participate in the celebration, helping to amp up the extraordinary factor of Carnival.
The City of Viareggio, a renowned seaside town, is rich in Art Deco architecture and is a great introduction to this part of Tuscany known as Versilia. Take a trip here, and enjoy the splendid nearby towns of Lido di Camaiore and Forte dei Marmi, as well as bigger cities like Pisa and Lucca.
We are roughly four months before Fat Tuesday. As we approach Halloween, the Mardi Gras drumbeats are getting louder. I’ve already heard a bunch from my own Carnival krewe, the Krewe du Vieux. We roll throughout the Marigny and French Quarter on January 31, 2015. I LOVE Mardi Gras and always have. Getting older hasn’t dulled my appetite for all things Carnival!
I used to see parades in all the surrounding parishes. I don’t anymore. I guess I don’t feel the need to dash around from parade locale to parade locale anymore. Seeing parades in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes in a single night was no biggie. Seeing the same parade in different spots
|Sunday||January 6, 2015||Phunny Phorty Phellows||Uptown Streetcar Route|
|Sunday||January 6, 2015||Krewe of Jeanne d’Arc||French Quarter|
|Saturday||January 31, 2015||Krewe du Vieux||Marigny/French Quarter|
|Friday||February 6, 2015||Krewe of Oshun||Uptown|
|Friday||February 6, 2015||Krewe of Cleopatra||Uptown|
|Saturday||February 7, 2015||Krewe of Pontchartrain||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Saturday||February 7, 2015||Krewe of Choctaw||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Saturday||February 7, 2015||Krewe of Freret||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Saturday||February 7, 2015||Knights of Sparta||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Saturday||February 7, 2015||Krewe of Pygmalion||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Sunday||February 8, 2015||Krewe of Carrollton||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Sunday||February 8, 2015||Krewe of King Arthur||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Sunday||February 8, 2015||Krewe of Alla||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Sunday||February 8, 2015||Mystic Krewe of Barkus||French Quarter|
|Wednesday||February 11, 2015||Krewe of Ancient Druids||Uptown – Jefferson|
|Wednesday||February 11, 2015||Mystic Krewe of Nyx||Uptown – Jefferson|
|Thursday||February 12, 2015||Knights of Babylon||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Thursday||February 12, 2015||Knights of Chaos||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Thursday||February 12, 2015||Krewe of Muses||Uptown – Jefferson|
|Friday||February 13, 2015||Krewe of Hermes||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Friday||February 13, 2015||Le Krewe d’Etat||Uptown – Jefferson|
|Friday||February 13, 2015||Krewe of Morpheus||Uptown – Jefferson|
|Saturday||February 14, 2015||Krewe of Iris||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Saturday||February 14, 2015||Krewe of Tucks||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Saturday||February 14, 2015||Krewe of Endymion||Mid-City|
|Sunday||February 15, 2015||Krewe of Okeanos||Uptown – Jefferson|
|Sunday||February 15, 2015||Krewe of Mid-City||Uptown – Jefferson|
|Sunday||February 15, 2015||Krewe of Thoth||Uptown – Henry Clay|
|Sunday||February 15, 2015||Krewe of Bacchus||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Monday||February 16, 2015||Krewe of Proteus||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Monday||February 16, 2015||Krewe of Orpheus||Uptown – Napoleon|
|Tuesday||February 17, 2015||Krewe of Zulu||Uptown – Jackson|
|Tuesday||February 17, 2015||Rex, King of Carnival||Uptown – Claiborne|
|Tuesday||February 17, 2015||Elks Krewe of Orleanians||Uptown – Claiborne|
|Tuesday||February 17, 2015||Krewe of Crescent City||Uptown – Claiborne|
The movie, We Won’t Bow Down, was shot over eight years by first time director Christopher Leroy Bower. A native of Ashville, North Carolina, Bower began conducting interviews right after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in September 2005. He learned about Mardi Gras Indian culture from Steve Mann, who co-produced and photographed We Won’t Bow Down.
Bower first saw Mardi Gras Indians on the first St Joseph’s Day after Katrina and was very impressed with the beauty, resilience and power of this New Orleans-only Carnival tradition. He ran into the Spirit of Fi-Yi-Yi and Victor Harris, who was singing Calling All My People, a prayer. He found it a chilling experience which he couldn’t forget.
He wanted the Indians to tell their own story without any narration or Indian ‘experts’ to dilute their message.
I work with some Mardi Gras indians and have recently put together Indian funk bands in New Orleans such as the Spy Boy All-Stars featuring June Victory and June Squared with June Yamagishi.They have played the Maple Leaf Bar, Tipitina’s, and Chickie Wah Wah among other major Crescent City venues. I too find the Indian culture very unique and beautiful. I’ve written some Indians up on my Mardi Gras Music Series, here’s a couple of links for the Wild Magnolias and June Victory and the Bayou Renegades, appearing next Thursday from 6 to 8 pm at the Ogden Museum, 925 Camp Street as part of their Ogden After Hours Music series.
Around the nation, audiences have been enthralled by the documentary. The crowd was enthusiastic at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, where the movie had its world premiere. We took some of the guys from the Ninth Ward Hunters and the Comanche Hunters to perform in Los Angeles, Bower said. They did a procession through the Crenshaw Mall, and to just release that on people randomly and to see the response, that was amazing. People were coming from the parking garage, the balconies, little kids were dancing. There was a connection that defies intellectual understanding. It was just in the spirit of what was happening.
Actor, producer and community activist Wendell Pierce saw the doc in Los Angeles and is now a major proponent of the film. His Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association is involved in the April 12 New Orleans premiere at the National WWII Museum.
We Won’t Be Bowed Down
National WWII Museum
Solomon Victory Theatre
Red Carpet Screening 7:15 pm
General Screening 9:15 pm
The public relations problem first became apparent when T-shirt-wearing members were accosted in public, according to one OOI member.
One member was harassed at Sam’s Club, she said. She had a gentleman come up to her, asking a lot of questions … and she said we are a Mardi Gras organization, the OOI member recounted. He didn’t understand us having ‘Isis’ on our clothing.
Another member who works in a doctor’s office also got attention for her shirt, the member said.
As we all know know, ISIS is the name of a middle eastern terrorist group that our military is fighting on a daily basis.
This just shows how current world events can impact a innocent Mobile, AL Mardi Gras Krewe in a serious manner.
One of Mobile’s newest parading groups, a ladies’ organization, the Order of Isis was formed in 2008, held its first ball in 2009, and staged its first parade in 2010. They have 115 members. Henceforth they will be known as OOI.
When OOI was formed, the name was chosen because we were founded on friendship, and Isis is the goddess of friendship and love, the OOI member said.
We’re just hoping that we can be OOI for a couple of years until all of this dies down, and then we can go back to our original name, she said.
The decision was also difficult because the group had already ordered throws and T-shirts this year, an OOI board member said. Some cups, footballs and koozies have already been printed, but there may be time to change other orders, she said.
Adonis permanent revocation was reduced to a $500 fine, and has asked to parade in Terrytown in 2015 before withdrawing their application after an email campaign was largely negative. The parish attorney said if Adonis has any new infractions, their permit will be revoked. I’ve written before about Jefferson Parish losing parades.
Here’s another story about Zeus backing off their St. Charles Parish application.
Zeus revocation was reduced to a one year suspension. The krewe is considering appealing that ruling. Zeus has traditionally paraded on Lundi Gras, but would lose that date after their one season suspension was served. Zeus started parading in 1958, making them the oldest Jefferson krewe.
Both krewes got into trouble with a 2009 Jefferson Parish ordinance that set standards for Mardi Gras parades. For the first time, krewes were required to field a minimum number of floats, bands, and riders. Zeus lost their permit because of four violations after their 2014 parade. Adonis didn’t have enough riders for their 2014 parade, which caused the city council to act.
The krewes think they were victims of an overzealous city council and went to court for relief. The court was accommodating, and obviously felt along the same lines as the krewe. I kind of agree, and think all krewes deserve a serious warning or two before their permit is pulled, a draconian measure to say the least. Of course, it’s more draconian in Orleans Parish than Jefferson, since Orleans has a moratorium on new parades and Jefferson doesn’t.
Either way it’s up to both krewes to show the court and the people of Jefferson they are viable parading krewes in 2015 and beyond.