carnivalesque, carnivallike, adj.
/kahr"neuh veuhl/, n.
1. a traveling amusement show, having sideshows, rides, etc.
2. any merrymaking, revelry, or festival, as a program of sports or entertainment: a winter carnival.
3. the season immediately preceding Lent, often observed with merrymaking; Shrovetide.
[1540-50; < It carnevale, OIt carnelevare taking meat away, equiv. to carne flesh ( < L carnem, acc. of caro) + levare < L levare to lift]
Syn. 2. fair, celebration, fete, holiday.

* * *

Final celebration before the fasting and austerity of Lent in some Roman Catholic regions.

The most famous and probably most exuberant carnival is that of Rio de Janeiro, which is celebrated with masked balls, costumes, and parades; the best-known U.S. celebration is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The first day of carnival season varies with local traditions, but carnival usually ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent.

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▪ pre-Lent festival
      the merrymaking and festivity that takes place in many Roman Catholic countries in the last days and hours before the Lenten season. The derivation of the word is uncertain, though it possibly can be traced to the medieval Latin carnem levare or carnelevarium, which means to take away or remove meat. This coincides with the fact that carnival is the final festivity before the commencement of the austere 40 days of Lent, during which Roman Catholics, in earlier times, fasted, abstained from eating meat, and followed other ascetic practices. The historical origin of carnival is also obscure. It possibly has its roots in a primitive festival honouring the beginning of the new year and the rebirth of nature, though it is also possible that the beginnings of carnival in Italy may be linked to the pagan Saturnalian festival of ancient Rome.

      The first day of the carnival season varies with both national and local traditions. Thus, in Munich and Bavaria the carnival, or Fasching, begins on the feast of the Epiphany (January 6), while in Cologne or the Rhineland it begins on November 11 at 11:11 AM (11th month, day, hour, and minute). In France the celebration is restricted to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday ( Shrove Tuesday) and to mi-carème, or the Thursday of the third week of Lent. More generally the commencement date is Quinquagesima Sunday (the Sunday before Ash Wednesday), and the termination is Shrove Tuesday, though, in some parts of Spain, Ash Wednesday also is included in the carnival celebrations, an observance that stems from a time when Ash Wednesday was not an integral part of Lent.

      In earlier times Rome was most conspicuous as the centre of carnival activity, and the splendour and richness of the festivity that marked its observance there were scarcely surpassed elsewhere. In its long history the carnival played a significant role in the development of the popular theatre, vernacular song, and folk dances.

 In the United States the principal carnival celebration is in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the carnival season opens on Twelfth Night (January 6) and climaxes with the Mardi Gras season commencing 10 days before Shrove Tuesday. The French name Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday, from the custom of using all the fats in the home before Lent. In Italy, Venice has become a gathering place for traditionally disguised carnival revelers, but the most famous modern carnival is perhaps that of Rio de Janeiro. Masked balls, elaborate costumes, parades, and various other festivities mark such celebrations.

▪ theatrical entertainment
      a traveling entertainment combining the features of both circus and amusement park. Developing out of the same roots as the early 19th-century circus—the “mud shows,” so called because they operated mainly in the open—carnivals traveled from town to town, bringing with them a few days of high excitement. In addition to mechanized rides such as the early merry-go-round, carnivals featured live animal acts, pony rides, sideshow curiosities, and games of skill and chance. The carnival barker announced the offerings to the crowd, sometimes promising more than could be presented. Carnivals soon developed a reputation for less than perfect honesty with the customers.

      Small traveling carnivals persist in the second half of the 20th century, but they have largely been replaced by permanent amusement and theme parks.

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Universalium. 2010.

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