Traditionally, in Christianity, carnival marked the last opportunity to celebrate and eat rich foods such as fats, meats, dairy, and sugar before Lent. Fasting and other devout practices, six weeks directly before Easter, marked the Lenten period of the Church calendar.
During Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people kept relatively restrictive diets. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink were disposed.
Carnival and Christianity
While it forms an integral part of the Christian calendar, particularly in Catholic regions, the tradition did not originate with Christianity. The same kind of popular celebration is found among almost all peoples. The Egyptians had the festival of Isis and Osiris, the Greeks had the Bacchanalia, and the Romans, the Saturnalia. The Romans integrated these so-called pagan traditions with the Catholic traditions as a way of to solidify their powerbase merging the growing popularity of Christianity with these long familiar practices.
Carnival Celebrations Worldwide
Today throughout the world, Carnival is a festive season, which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during January and February. The Brazilian Carnival is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. In the Caribbean, North America, and UK the Carnival season begins as a precursor to Lent and continues throughout the year. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of masquerading, a public street party, and incorporation of the country's local culture.
Caribbean Carnival is the term used for a number of events that take place in many of the Caribbean islands annually. International Caribbean Carnivals take place each year in Canada, the United States, and United Kingdom as well. In Canada and the United States the Caribbean Carnivals are more a reflection of the rich mixture of Caribbean communities living co-existing in the particular region and less about a single country or even Canadian or American culture.