Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. Whatever you call it, the weeks leading up to Easter bring a host of festivities. Some of the popular pre-Lent celebrations in cities across the world bring in large crowds to enjoy feasts, parades and parties. Here’s my selection of some of the best places to celebrate Mardi Gras around the world.
1) French Quarter, New Orleans
Embrace the chaos and be seduced by the spirit of Carnival in New Orleans. Enjoy lavish parades, masquerade balls and the unforgettable atmosphere of Mardi Gras. It’s said that the first parade float was created by a society of wealthy men called the Mistick Krewe of Comus. From this day, different secret societies, or ‘Krewes’, join the party with their own floats, colours and costumes. One to look out for is the Krewe of Rex, who wear traditional gold, purple and green colours. Newer Krewes like Bacchus, Endymion and Zulu opt for glitz with celebrity appearances, marching bands and more than 1,000 riders.
2) Binche, Belgium
The Carnival of Binche dates back to the 14th century and takes places in the town of Binche, just south of Brussels. Start your day with a traditional oyster and champagne breakfast (yum), before watching the clown-like performers. Dressed up in vibrant orange costumes, with waxed masks and wooden footwear, it’s a real sight to be seen as the Gilles party from dusk ‘til dawn on Shrove Tuesday. Embrace the fun as you throw confetti, catch the symbolic oranges and join the town for a whole day of celebration.
3) Tobago, Caribbean
The Trinidad & Tobago Carnival is for you if you want to celebrate Mardi Gras by the pristine, exotic beaches of the Caribbean. Follow the sounds of the steel pan band as they lead the newly crowned Carnival King and Queen, dressed in dramatic, embellished costumes. The crowds that follow these parades are notoriously passionate, so much so that it can be hard to see where the performers stop and the crowd begin; so dress up, dance and join the party.
4) Quebec City, Canada
Warm up in Quebec City during their frosty February at the Quebec Winter Festival. This festival is slightly different from others as it's all about the sports and competitions. From building the ice palace and snow sculptures to tobogganing and ice skating, it’s fun for all the family. Be sure to look out for their mascot Bonhomme, the King of the Festivities, during the parades both day and night.
Offering mystery and magic, the Venice Carnival takes you back to the 18th century. With deep roots in the city’s culture, thousands of masked Venetians line the streets for the Carnevale to dance to music, enjoy feasts and watch the parades. The parades and parties are famously much more theatrical than most. If you’re lucky, you may get the chance to party with the elite in one of the extravagant Grand Masquerade Balls.
6) Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
How could I talk about carnivals without mentioning Rio de Janeiro? Arguably one of the most famous pre-Lent celebrations, the Rio Carnival draws millions of people to the city for one big samba party. Thousands of performers dance on decorated floats and compete in one of seven divisions for their choice of music, costume and themes. With dancers training all year for the festivities, you know they mean business and that it'll be the show of a lifetime.
Have you been to any of these carnivals? How was it? Share your stories in the comments below.