For Catholics, Lent is a 40 day time period, during which the faithful practice repentance, fasting, and preparation for Easter. The week before Lent is to begin, many places in the world hold festivals of all-out decadence. In New Orleans they celebrate Mardi Gras, Rio de Janeiro has Carnival, and in Mexico, there’s Carnaval. This year, the festivities kick off on February 8th and end the day before Ash Wednesday, February 13th. It’s a time of great celebration, infused as always, with the culture of the place in which it’s being held.
True to their good nature, the people of Mexico fully embrace the opportunity Carnaval affords to wear costumes and hold parades and parties. However, unlike places such as New Orleans, where this week has morphed into nothing more than an excuse for wild parties, Mexicans tend more toward family friendly events. Tradition has it that the festivities are initiated by the burning of an effigy, often a very unpopular politician or public figure, in order to get rid of The Ill Humor (El Mal Humor). Perhaps this year we will see the likeness of a particular U.S. official who has a reputation for stirring up trouble with our neighbors to the South?
After Ill Humor is disposed of, it’s time to crown the Carnaval royalty and let the round the clock fun begin. Many big cities have developed their own time-honored rituals over the years. Such as Cozumel, where they’ve managed to stretch out the entire event, starting in January with “Pre-Carnaval” activities and events. In February, the official Carnaval is kicked off with massive parades and games for adults and children alike. Even pets get their chance to dress up and promenade!
Along with the larger cities, most small towns also have their own traditions surrounding the last hurrah before Lent. With different foods, festivities and competitions, many places in Mexico proudly practice their own unique traditions. One thing is for sure, no matter where you decide to visit during Carnaval, you’re going to get the chance to sample delicious, local cuisine and watch or participate in parades, parties and games.