Carnival strongholds across the world

Carnival strongholds across the world

Cologne and Rio are famous strongholds of the so-called “fifth season.” But there are also other places where people go a bit “mad” when carnival time comes around:

Solsona – Spain

Where exactly is this carnival celebrated?
The small Spanish town of Solsona is located in Catalonia, around 100 km from Barcelona.

When exactly is this carnival celebrated?
On the usual carnival days in February.

History and tradition – what is being celebrated?
After the Spanish dictator Franco banned carnival across the country in 1934, the residents of Solsona bravely ignored his command 35 years later and celebrated carnival anyway, and it has become ever bigger and better known over the years. The parades are largely about mocking current political events and people. The carnival in Solsona has its own official anthem, the song “El Bufi”.

What are the traditional costumes/customs?
The large papier mâché figures, known as “Giants” in Solsona, are often caricatures of well-known personalities. Those who take part in the parade simply wear the figures rather than putting them on a float.

Special features
Based on the legend that a hungry donkey was hoisted onto the roof of the cathedral using a rope so it could eat the grass there, a fake donkey is hoisted up the church tower every year (“Ascension of the Donkey”). Many celebrities have traveled to Solsona to hang the donkey and give a speech.

Ptuj – Slovenia

Where exactly is this carnival celebrated?
Ptuj is the oldest town in Slovenia and is located on the river Drava amongst the many vineyards in the northeast of the country. Often more than 100,000 visitors from across Europe descend on the town for carnival in addition to its 18,000 residents.

When exactly is this carnival celebrated?
The Ptuj carnival lasts around ten days in February and ends on Ash Wednesday.

History and tradition – what is being celebrated?
Processions take place every evening in Ptuj until Carnival Sunday. During these processions, shaggy-haired beings wearing cowbells march through the streets and gather to dance on the town hall square. The noise is supposed to drive out the winter spirits and all that is evil.

What are the traditional costumes like?
People from Ptuj and the surrounding villages dress up as spooky beings with fleece capes, long red tongues and horns, called “Kurents.” The costumes are either made by hand or come from the town’s own mask workshop.

Special features
The many medieval buildings and alleyways of Ptuj provide a particularly impressive backdrop for the carnival.

Port of Spain – Trinidad and Tobago

Where exactly is this carnival celebrated?
Port of Spain is the capital of the Caribbean island state of Trinidad and Tobago, is situated in northwest Trinidad, and has around 37,000 residents.

When exactly is this carnival celebrated?
Mainly on Shrove Monday and Carnival Tuesday.

History and tradition – what is being celebrated?
Carnival is one of the most important festivals of the year for the island residents and the preparations take months! The main focus is on the dances as well as the traditional calypso music, colorful processions and various competitions (e.g. in limbo or soca dancing).

What are the traditional costumes like?
The locals make their splendid costumes themselves. The main elements are feathers and gemstones and they are presented at the parade on Tuesday. To make it clear that carnival is for everyone, including poorer people, there is another procession with somewhat unusual costumes. At the “J’ouvert” procession, which starts at 4 o’clock in the morning, people decorate themselves by smearing each other with paint, mud, chocolate sauce, or oil.

Special features
On the Saturday before Shrove Monday, a big steelpan competition (“Panorama”) takes place. Up to 100 musicians gather on a stage and play on the steel drums the Caribbean is known for.

Oruro – Bolivia

Where exactly is this carnival celebrated?
The Bolivian town of Oruro is located high up in the Andes, around 230 kilometers away from the capital La Paz. It has around 265,000 residents, but more than double this number visits during carnival.

When exactly is this carnival celebrated?
For three days from Carnival Saturday onward (Saturday before Shrove Monday).

History and tradition – what is being celebrated?
The carnival in Oruro is a religious festival with a very long tradition. On the three main days, various carnival fraternal orders march through the town in processions. During these processions, different dances are performed every day. On the first day, there are dances for the Virgen del Socavón (Virgin of the Mine Tunnel), on the second day for Dios Momo, the God of Fun. On Shrove Monday, the traditional Bolivian dances Diablada and Morenada are performed.

What are the traditional costumes like?
The carnival participants wear huge, artistically decorated plaster masks in the shape of devils’ grimaces.

Special features
The carnival of Oruro was listed as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001, and is an important festival for the whole of Bolivia.

São Vicente – Cape Verde

Where exactly is this carnival celebrated?
São Vicente is an island that forms part of the Cape Verde archipelago. The carnival is celebrated in many parts of the African group of islands, but the biggest and most colorful festival, including a big parade, takes place in the capital of Mindelo.

When exactly is this carnival celebrated?
The main days of the Cape Verde carnival last from Carnival Saturday to Ash Wednesday, but the first processions take place on Friday.

History and tradition – what is being celebrated?
In the mid-20th century, not only did Brazilian seafarers bring samba to Cape Verde, but they also laid the foundation stone for the carnival tradition. It combines the cultural aspects of South America with Africa in one carnival celebration.

What are the traditional costumes like?
Cape Verdeans show particular creativity when it comes to their costumes. Despite the fact that financial means are limited, they create splendid costumes and elaborately decorated floats.

Special features
At carnival in Mindelo, they dance for as long as the costumes last. During the main parade, which lasts several hours, the samba groups duel in the same passionate and committed manner that samba groups do at the carnival in Rio.