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Farewell to Meat

Carnival from its beginnings until now

Started out centuries ago as a result of a cross-cultural exchange, Carnival is still a way to get in touch with our roots and a chance to get in touch with each other. The meaning of the word dates back to the Italian tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival Carnevale — from the Late Latin expression carne levare, which means “remove meat”. A folk etymology derives it from carne vale, “farewell to meat”.

As time passed, carnivals in Italy became quite famous, and the practice spread to France, Spain, and all the Catholic countries in Europe. Then as the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating Carnival.

Oxford, Bodleian Library. Ms. Bodley 264, Roman d’Alexandre (XIV sec.), f. 21v. Dances for Carnival

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent – Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1559)

Masks and Characters of the Commedia dell’Arte (detail) 19th century © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Once Columbus had steered his boat through Caribbean waters, it was only a few hundred years before the slave trade was well established. By the early 19th century, some six million slaves had been brought to the Caribbean. Between 1836 and 1917, indentured workers from Europe, west and central Africa, southern China, and India were brought to the Caribbean as laborers.

Important to Caribbean festival arts are the ancient African traditions of parading and moving in circles through villages in costumes and masks. Circling villages was believed to bring good fortune, to heal problems, and chill out angry relatives who had died and passed into the next world. Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects — bones, grasses, beads, shells, fabric — to create a piece of sculpture, a mask, or costume — with each object or combination of objects representing a certain idea or spiritual force.

Carnival in Samburu Land (Kenya)

Model Soowan Bramble performs during the Harts Carnival presentation Of Love and War in Port-of-Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) – Photo: Andrea De Silva/Reuters

Venice Carnival (Italy)

Salvador de Bahia Carnival (Brazil)

Rio de Janeiro Carnival (Brazil) – Photo: Nelson Antoine

The festive season typically involves public celebrations, including events such as parades, public street parties and other entertainments, combining some elements of a circus. Elaborate costumes and masks allow people to set aside their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity.

Participants often indulge in excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods that will be forgone during upcoming Lent. Traditionally, butter, milk, and other animal products were not consumed “excessively”, rather, their stock was fully consumed as to reduce waste. Pancakes, donuts, and other desserts were prepared and eaten for a final time.

Carnaval à Jacmel (Haiti) – Photo: Phyllis Galembo

Tombolina – Carnival in Naples (Italy)

Achille Lauro (Sanremo Outfits) – Gioiosa Marea, Sicily (Italy)

Antivirus Venice Mask

Death in Venice (Italy) – Photo: Dora Bertolutti Howard

Little Joker in Naples (Italy)

Salvador Dalí mask from La casa de papel series

Cookie Monster realized he ain’t wanna eat cookies no more

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  1. Farewell to Meat — Dioniso Punk – Evaporata

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