Carnival History and Event Calendar (2023)

Once Christmas season is officially over in the Caribbean, it's time to dig out your dancing shoes and start thinking about Carnival, the hedonistic celebration that culminates on Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, the day before Lent begins.

If you are planning a trip to the Caribbean in February or March, when Fat Tuesday falls depending on the year, you can catch this raucous celebration that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


January St. Kitts,St. Croix

February Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Martinique

April St .Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) 23-30,Jamaica 12-18,

May Cayman Islands

June Bermuda

July St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

August Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Trinidad, the birthplace of Carnival in the Caribbean, is still the biggest and wildest party, but there are many other islands where you can experience Carnival almost year-round.


Carnival in the Caribbean has a complicated origin. It's tied to colonialism, religious conversion, and ultimately freedom and celebration. The festival originated with Italian Catholics in Europe, and it later spread to the French and Spanish, who brought the pre-Lenten tradition with them when they settled (and brought slaves to) Trinidad, Dominica, Haiti, Martinique, and other Caribbean islands.

The word "carnival" itself is thought to mean "farewell to meat" or "farewell to flesh," the former referencing the Catholic practice of abstaining from red meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter. The "farewell to flesh" translation, while possibly fabricated, is said to be emblematic of the sensuous abandon that came to define the Caribbean celebration of the holiday.

Historians say they believe the first "modern" Caribbean Carnival originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the late 18th century when a flood of French settlers brought the Fat Tuesday masquerade party tradition with them to the island, although Fat Tuesday celebrations were almost certainly taking place at least a century before that.

By the beginning of the 18th century, there were already a large number of free blacks in Trinidad mixed with French immigrants, earlier Spanish settlers, and British nationals (the island came under British control in 1797). This resulted in Carnival's transformation from an implanted European celebration to a more heterogeneous cultural froth that included traditions from all ethnic groups. With the end of slavery in 1834, the now completely free populace could outwardly celebrate their native culture and their emancipation through dress, music, and dancing.

These three elements, dressing in masquerade, music, and dancing, remain central to Carnival celebrations, whether it be at an elaborate French ball or steel drums in the streets, with costumes, masks, feathers, headdresses, dancing, music, and drums all part of the scene, along with raucous behavior.


Which is the oldest carnival celebration recorded in history? ›

Perhaps the oldest carnival in existence, Kukeri from eastern Europe dates back to Pagan times. Celebrated in Bulgaria, it is one of the oldest traditions of the region that could have originated over 6000 years ago and is held even today! The festivities are conducted between New Year's and Lent.

What does carnival symbolize? ›

Carnival (Carnaval in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries) originated as a pagan festival in ancient Egypt to say goodbye to winter and welcome spring. However, today's celebrations evolved from Alexander the Great, who adopted the festival after he conquered Egypt and overlaid it with Christian meanings.

What is the brief history of carnival? ›

The festival originated with Italian Catholics in Europe, and it later spread to the French and Spanish, who brought the pre-Lenten tradition with them when they settled (and brought slaves to) Trinidad, Dominica, Haiti, Martinique, and other Caribbean islands.

What typical events make up carnival? ›

Carnival 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.

What is the first day of carnival called? ›

Italy. In Italy Mardi Gras is called Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday). It is the main day of Carnival along with the Thursday before, called Giovedí Grasso (Fat Thursday), which ratifies the start of the celebrations.

Where is the most famous carnival held? ›

The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro (Portuguese: Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro) is a festival held every year before Lent; it is considered the biggest carnival in the world, with two million people per day on the streets. The first Carnival festival in Rio occurred in 1723. Celebration prior to fasting season of Lent.

What do the colors mean on carnival? ›

Blue: Cruise Rookies. Red: 2-24 VIFP Points. Gold: 25-74 VIFP Points. Platinum: 75-199 VIFP Points. Diamond: 200+ VIFP Points.

What are 3 benefits of carnival? ›

Social benefits - self-esteem; socialintegration; leadership skill development; physical health and healthy habits;education and learning; volunteerism and community spirit; dedication; spreadof the carnival work ethic.

What is carnival short answer? ›

A carnival is a public festival during which people play music and sometimes dance in the streets. 2. countable noun. A carnival is a travelling show which is held in a park or field and at which there are machines to ride on, entertainments, and games.

What is carnival explanation for kids? ›

A carnival is a traveling entertainment usually offering rides, sideshows, games, exhibits, and refreshment and souvenir stands. Popular throughout the world, traveling carnivals were especially beloved in American small towns before automobiles gave people access to other entertainment.

What is the tradition of carnival? ›

The main tradition of Carnival includes parades through the city streets. Many cities hold parades with floats, which are enormous, decorated vehicles that can carry dozens of riders, who often wear very elaborate, colorful costumes and masks.

Is carnival a cultural event? ›

Carnival: The Regional Genesis and Contemporary Status

Carnival finds its social and historic origin in the region and is an expression of culture that encapsulates music, dance, costumes, pageantry and performance.

What is the most popular carnival in the world? ›

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Nobody throws a party quite like Brazil, and there's no Brazilian party quite like Rio Carnaval. It's the world's largest Carnival celebration, attracting participants in the millions for a week of explosive, flamboyant, samba-shaking fun.

Where did Carnival originally come from? ›

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.

Why is it called Fat Tuesday? ›

It's called Fat Tuesday because it's the last day that many people eat meat and fatty foods before Lent begins. Today, Mardi Gras season in New Orleans is a time of merry-making and festivity.

What was the Carnival Sunrise called before? ›

Originally built as Carnival Triumph in 1999, the cruise ship was renamed Carnival Sunrise in 2019 upon completion of a $200m bow-to-stern renovation in Cadiz, Spain.

Where is the biggest carnival in the United States? ›

New Orleans, Louisiana

It's no surprise that New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration is the biggest of its kind in the U.S. Each year, the Mardi Gras krewes plan extensively detailed, themed parades that make their way down St. Charles Avenue.

What is the 2nd largest carnival? ›

The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, is the second most popular and internationally known celebration after Brazil's.

Where is the 2nd largest carnival held? ›

Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife – Spain

Behind the Brazilian festivities that happen in Rio de Janeiro, this party is the second biggest Carnival in the world.

What does a Gold card mean on Carnival Cruise? ›

Gold Level (25 to 74 points)

Once you've sailed on Carnival at least 25 days, you'll receive a Gold card and be eligible for a complimentary appreciation drink on cruises of 5 nights or longer, and you'll receive a Gold VIFP pin on every cruise in addition to the Red benefits.

What does Blue Card mean on Carnival? ›

Carnival VIFP Levels

Blue: First sailing, before points are accrued. Red: Second sailing, regardless of points. Gold: 25 points. Platinum: 75 points. Diamond: 200 points.

What is the red thing on Carnival cruise ships? ›

That trend continues today, when cruise lines are keeping the look of the larger funnel and personalizing these ship funnels to match their brands. Carnival Cruise Line's distinctive red funnel is shaped like a whale tale and can be spied miles away; it has been patented as a brand identifier.

Why is carnival an important part of culture? ›

One of the most unifying events and cultural and creative extravaganza, which is celebrated in the region is Carnival. Carnival finds its social and historic origin in the region and is an expression of culture that encapsulates music, dance, costumes, pageantry and performance.

What do carnival employees get paid? ›

The estimated salary at Carnival Cruise Line ranges from approximately $19,444 per year for Customer Service Representative to $145,885 per year for IT Manager. The estimated monthly salary at Carnival Cruise Line ranges from approximately $1,208 per month for Chef to $7,838 per month for Physician....

What are carnival values? ›

Every day, our team on board and ashore lives the Carnival Values: Ensure safe, responsible and secure operations. Warmly welcome our guests and team members to our home, making them feel a part of the Carnival family. Embrace our diversity and be inclusive. Engage by being friendly, smiling and using names.

What is a carnival girl? ›

Carnival Queen, or sometimes Carnaval Queen is the name or title given to a woman or a girl who is chosen to perform official duties during the celebration of the Carnival, a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent wherein the main events are usually held annually in February.

What is a famous carnival? ›

The biggest, most spectacular and most famous celebration in the world, the Rio Carnival has become synonymous with the party spirit of both Rio and Brazil itself. The event usually takes place five days before Lent, however this year it has been postponed to late April.

What is the history of carnival in the Caribbean? ›

Carnival's celebration of rebellion against enslavement has roots in both African and Indigenous cultures. Carnival first took shape in the late 18th century on the island of Trinidad and Tobago, emerging in a ritual called Cannes Brulees (French for “sugarcane burning”).

When was the first carnival? ›

It has been speculated that carnival origin, carnival origins of the world's biggest party, were some 5000 years ago with the Egyptians others speculate it was the Greeks. In ancient Egypt and Greece there were festivities that occurred around the cycles of nature and the universe.

When was the first traveling carnival? ›

History. In 1893, the Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition (also called the Chicago World's Fair) was the catalyst for the development of the modern traveling carnival. The Chicago World's Fair had an area that included rides, games of chance, freak shows, and burlesque.

What words describe carnival? ›

synonyms for carnival
  • bacchanal.
  • carousal.
  • circus.
  • conviviality.
  • exposition.
  • fair.
  • feasting.
  • festival.

What is the oldest festival celebration? ›

Nowruz (Persian: نوروز) is a traditional Persian festival celebrating the new year and is considered the oldest festival in the world, falling on the spring equinox. Its origin dates back to the pre-Islamic Persian period.

What is the oldest celebration in the world? ›

Nevruz, the world's oldest festival which is celebrated by festivities under various names in many communities, is being celebrated in the Turkish World as "the exit of Turks from Ergenekon" and "the beginning of the new year in Turkish calendar with 12 zodiac divisions represented by animals" since 5000 years.

How old is the Carnival Celebration? ›

Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Celebration Ship Information
Carnival Celebration
Year Built2022
Year Last Refurbished-
Capacity6,500 passengers
1 more row

When was the first Carnival in the United States? ›

The earliest Carnival celebration in North America occurred at a place on the west bank of the Mississippi River about 60 miles (97 km) downriver from where New Orleans is today; this Mardi Gras on March 3, 1699, and in honor of this holiday, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, a 38-year-old French Canadian, named the ...

Which is the largest festival in the world? ›

What is the biggest festival in the world? The biggest festival in the world is in fact, the Kumbh Mela. A gathering in India of more than 130 million people at a time and place dictated by astrology.

What is the first festival of the year? ›

Makar Sankranti is a unique festival which happens on the 14/15 January each year. It is the only day which is celebrated according to the solar calendar and marks the time when the Sun moves into Makara ( Capricorn) constellation/zodiac or towards the North direction which is also known as Uttarayana.

What was the first birthday in the world? ›

The first mentions of a birthday came from Ancient Egypt, where large celebrations were put on for the Pharaoh. These celebrations were coronation dates, symbolic of the Pharaoh's birth as a 'god. ' The first of these is said to have taken place somewhere around the year 3,000 B.C.E.

What religion is carnival? ›

Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it's celebrated in many countries around the world—mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations—on the day before the religious season of Lent begins.

What is the oldest celebration in America? ›

Charleston remembers Emancipation Proclamation in America's oldest celebration. The Holy City was home Sunday to the 157th Emancipation Proclamation Parade and celebration, making it the oldest celebration in the nation.

What is the oldest cruise ship still in service? ›

The MV Astoria is the oldest cruise ship currently sailing, and Cruise and Maritime Voyages embraces the story of its vintage vessel. It employs an on-board historian to offer lectures about the ship's fascinating past.

Where is the biggest Carnival in the United States? ›

New Orleans, Louisiana

It's no surprise that New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration is the biggest of its kind in the U.S. Each year, the Mardi Gras krewes plan extensively detailed, themed parades that make their way down St. Charles Avenue.


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