February is the month of the typically Brasilian holiday, the Carnival, but it doesn´t mean it´s not celebrated in other parts of the world. It is, but some aspects change from country to country. Let´s take a look at some facts in a few English speaking countries.
Carnival, or Carnivale, is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent (in Portuguese, quaresma); the main events are usually during February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life.
Carnival is traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox makeup. Protestant areas usually do not have Carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is linked to Easter, so its date changes on an annual basis) events. The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the custom for Christians to be "shriven" before the start of Lent
Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fats and sugar. The forty days of Lent, recalling the Gospel accounts of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an annual time of turning. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community, is thought to be the origin of Carnival.
Some of the best-known traditions, including carnival parades and masquerade ball masquerading, were first recorded in medieval Italy.
Origins of the word
The origin of the name "Carnival" is disputed, between those that have argue a link with the Italian word "carne" (meat), and those that argue a link with the word "carrus" (car). The link with carne would suggest an origin within Christianity, while the link with carro with earlier religions.Those that argue for the origin from "carne", point to variants in Italian dialects that would suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent.
Folk etymologies exist which state that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, so suggesting carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase actually embraced by certain Carnival celebrants who encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival.
In English speaking countries
In England, the season immediately before Lent was called Shrovetide. It was a time for confessing sins (shriving) with fewer festivities than the Continental Carnivals. Today, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated as Pancake Day.
In Canada, Caribana, held in Toronto on the first weekend of August, has its origins in the Carnival traditions of the Caribbean. Due to climatic imperatives, Caribana is held in the summer when Caribbean costumes may be paraded comfortably, rather than adhering to the traditional winter dates of the other Carnivals in which the festival is strongly rooted. Attendance at the Caribana parade typically exceeds one million people. The Quebec Winter Carnival is the biggest winter-themed Carnival in the world. It depends on good snowfalls and very cold weather, to keep snowy ski trails in good condition and the many ice sculptures intact. For this reason it does not coincide with the pre-Lent celebration but is fixed instead to the last days of January and first days of February. In the Ottawa-Gatineau region, Winterlude takes place during the first 4 weeks of February.
In the US, Carnival celebrations, usually referred to as Mardi Gras, were first celebrated in the Gulf Coast area of the United States, but now occur in many other states. Customs originated in the onetime French colonial capitals of Mobile (now in Alabama), New Orleans (Louisiana) and Biloxi (Mississippi), all of which have been celebrated for many years with street parades and masked balls. Other major U.S. cities with celebrations include Miami, Florida; Tampa, Florida; St. Louis, Missouri; Pensacola, Florida; San Diego, California; Galveston, Texas and Orlando, Florida.
Carnival is celebrated in New York City in the Borough of Brooklyn. As in the UK, the timing of Carnival has been separated from the Christian calendar and is celebrated on Labor Day Monday, in September. It is called the Labor Day Carnival, West Indian Day Parade or West Indian Day Carnival, and was founded by immigrants from Trinidad, one of the West Indian islands that has one of the largest Carnivals of the Caribbean region. In the mid twentieth century, West Indians moved the timing of the New York area Carnival from the beginning of Lent to the Labor Day weekend. The West Indian Day Carnival is one of the largest parades and street festivals in New York with usually over one million people participating or attending. The parade, which consists of steel bands, floats, elaborate Carnival costumes and sound trucks proceeds down Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood.
Another meaning of carnival is "traveling amusement show having sideshows and rides (like a fair or an amusement park). In Portuguese, it corresponds to "parque de diversões", but not a permanent one.