In the UK, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated by eating sumptuous pancakes with all manor of toppings. Yet, across the world it is celebrated much differently. In Spain, for example, the final day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Christian fasting season Lent is celebrated as Carnival. Carnival in Spain is a flamboyant and fascinating event. It is one of the biggest party of the year with locations such as Cadiz and Tenerife being world famous for their celebrations.
Carnival in Spain – Interesting Facts
What is Carnival in Spain?
Carnival, or ‘Carnaval’ in Spanish, is celebrated across Spain as the last day before the commencement of Lent. This celebration is seen by those of the Christian faith as the last chance to indulge before the start of Lent.
The festivities include drinking and eating in abundance combined with dancing, parades and a general party atmosphere. The party lasts from dawn to dusk and is popular across the country with certain areas taking the party to a new level.
The word ‘Carnaval’ is believed to be derived from the phrase “farewell to the flesh” and dates back to the middle ages.
It is not uncommon to see parades, floats, costumes and performances during the carnival. Many see as having its roots in the Roman solstice festival. It is these pagan roots which may explain its banning for over 40 years by dictator General Franco.
When is Carnival in Spain?
Due to its connection with Lent and in turn Easter, the date of carnival changes each year. It is, however, always on the 7th Tuesday before Easter Sunday. This means that it will always take place at some point in February or March.
Some areas may host their celebrations throughout the week with numerous parades and performances taking place, all culminating in the main event on the Tuesday. Some areas of the country have a more muted celebration limited to one or two day.
How does Spain celebrate Carnival?
Celebrations vary from town to town and area to area. The traditional celebrations will start with the welcoming of the carnival king or queen who start the partying. There will be parades, dancers and musical performers to follow which can cover the entirety of a town. Food and drink play a bit part in the celebrations with communal meals and festivities taking centre stage.
In more traditional areas, the celebrations come to an end on the final day with a mock funeral symbolising the end of the revelries.
Where to celebrate it?
Each area of Spain celebrates Carnival differently. Cities such as Barcelona and Madrid host amazing parties to celebrate Carnival. The most fun and impressive celebrations in these cities however are not necessarily always found in the city-centre. But rather some of the outlying areas.
For the best possible Carnival experience in Spain you will need to travel slightly further afield. You may want to visit the cities of Cadiz, Sitges and the island of Tenerife. These three locations are considered to offer some of the most spectacular carnival celebrations in the whole of Spain.
Carnival in Cadiz
Cadiz has been home to carnival celebrations since the 16th century. The celebration here is somewhat different from the more publicised events in other parts of the world. The focus on the celebrations in Cadiz is on humour and music. The city hosts stand-up comedians and musical performances throughout the event.
It is also normal for celebrations here to last up to 10 days leading up to the final day. it is no wonder that this was the one carnival that General Franco was unable to ban.
Visiting Cadiz during carnival is highly recommended for any one looking to enjoy local traditions and festivities.
Carnival in Tenerife
Tenerife‘s answer to carnival is closer to that of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil than any other Spanish celebration. With its glittery costumes, dancers and multiple parades and processions, it really is a feast for the eyes.
It is considered the biggest celebration in Spain. The Tenerife carnival takes over the whole island for the duration of the festivities. You can expect street parties and entertainment at every turn.
Tenerife offers so much to a visitor on any day of the year, but during carnival everything is amplified. From the revelling inhabitants, colourful sights and fun-filled celebrations.
Discover more Carnival in Spain and learn Spanish with Cactus:
Are you interested in learning Spanish and experiencing the world famous Carnivals in Cadiz or Tenerife? Cactus offers Spanish language holidays in both Cadiz and Tenerife. We also offer online language courses, language classes in the UK, and private classes.
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