Carnival Knowledge

What's Lent? The 40-day period of fasting and repentance before Easter. In other words, a five-week-long no-fun zone. Fortunately, a long time ago some wise souls realized that if you're going to spend so much effort absolving your sins, you might as well commit a few first. And that's how Carnival, the world's biggest party, came along. A raucous worldwide fête filled with music, drink, and food (the name itself means "Goodbye, Meat!"), it often kicks off in late January and gets wilder and louder until the final blurry crescendo: Fat Tuesday, which in 2009 falls on February 24. Many countries and cultures have their own takes on the party, from Trinidad's scantily-clad masses to Venice's period-dress costume competitions. But whether or not you actually go in for those 40 days of Lent, Carnival itself promises to be a heck of a lot of fun.

Published February 2006

(Pictured: Mardi Gras in New Orleans)

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