Mardi Gras is French for 'fat Tuesday', and most people think of it as a raucous event with colourful costumes and strings and strings of beads. It's certainly true that destinations such as New Orleans turn up the fun to celebrate, the roots of Mardi Gras stretch beyond this famous French Quarter.
It is a celebration of many names – Carnival in Rio and Martedi Grasso in Italy – with roots in the Christian religion. Today, celebrations have developed into family-friendly affairs that welcome people from all walks of life. It's a joyous celebration that often involves elaborate parades, parties, traditional foods and more. Cities around the world come to life to celebrate and we're counting down some of the best ...
Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrations are world famous. It was born as a protest in 1978 and has since developed into a glittering and dazzling celebration of progress. Thousands of flood the streets in the city in a show of support for equal right. The celebration features a theme every year and runs for two weeks, with event taking place throughout the city. The highlight of the celebration is the Mardi Gras parade, which sees participants from far and wide donning costumes of all kinds as a demonstration of self-expression and solidarity.
The award for the longest celebration goes to Cologne, which commences its Carnival season on the 11th of November. Though the festivities are temporary suspended over the Christmas and New Year period. They pick up again after the 6th of January. The true spectacle and merrymaking in the streets is officially opened on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent. There is a street carnival, known as 'the crazy days', which takes place on Fat Thursday and ends on Ash Wednesday. Perhaps the biggest day of the celebration comes on Rose Monday in which participants dress up in fancy costumes to attend parades and public displays.
The Venetian Carnival commences in the days leading up to Lent. It is the largest annual celebration for the city and draws international attention. Perhaps one of the most famous aspects of Carnival in Venice is the tradition of wearing masks. Dating back to the 1200s, these masks were originally very basic; however, they have developed into extravagant pieces decorated in gold leaf, gem stones and feathers. Some revellers also dress in period costumes to attend masquerade balls, lending an air of old world sophistication to the event. There are also plenty of events open to the public, including a candle lit boat parade, concerts and street performances.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Many consider Rio's Carnival to be the biggest Carnival celebration in the world. More than two million merrymakers flood the streets every day for the two weeks leading up to Lent. The highlight of the event is definitely the Carnival parade, filled with revellers, floats and adornments from many samba schools located throughout the city. Today there are so many schools participating, the parade is held over two days (Sunday and Monday) and the city has constructed stands along the route for the public to watch. It is renowned for its amazing costumes and detailed floats. A street carnival also takes place with plenty of dancing and music.
New Orleans, USA
Certainly the largest Mardi Gras celebration in the USA, the French Quarter in New Orleans comes to life for two weeks leading up to Lent. While steeped in French tradition, this celebration has a few very unique traditions. This includes the Mardi Gras Indians, beaded necklaces, king cakes and more! The city also hosts a number of parades that start in January, pulled together by individual krewes (a group or organisation that band together to participate in the celebration and social events throughout the year). There are more than 50 krewes, with numbers growing each year. Some have been in existence for decades. Each parade is a showcase of amazingly beautiful costumes and floats, which dazzle onlookers from around the world.