Today, carnival frenzy hits a high pitch in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Venice, Italy, and, of course, New Orleans for Mardi Gras. These vibrant pre-Lenten celebrations, fusing elements from African festivals and European rituals dating back to the Roman Empire and Ancient Greece, can be found in many parts of the world where the Roman Catholic faith is (or was) dominant.
Event planners can find much inspiration from carnival. If you're planning an incentive trip to destinations where carnival is celebrated, time it right and give your guest a real treat. If foreign travel is not in the budget, create your own carnival or add excitement to just about any corporate events with a combination of these elements.
- Color: Carnival is a kaleidoscope of color reflected in floats, costumes, and decorations.
- Music: The rhythm varies from place to place but bands and music are an essential component of all carnival celebrations.
- Costumes: Whether it's the masquerade balls in Venice or Trinidad's road marches and jump ups with their colorful floats in Trinidad, costumes add a sense of fun to carnival.
- Spicy Cuisine
- Competitions: From king and queen of the band and the competition to select the official road march song in Trinidad to Best Masked Costume competition at St. Mark Square in Venice, competitions add fun and excitement to carnivals.
- Collaboration: From the Krewes of Mardi Gras to the Mas Camps of Trinidad, carnivals are collaborative endeavors.
How Carnival is Celebrated
Trinidad: In Trinidad, carnival is a fusion of African, Spanish, British, and local Creole traditions. Preparations for next year's carnival begin almost as soon as this year's carnival is over. Bands organize mas camps where the preparations are made. There is a them to be selected, floats to be built and costumes to be made. The costumes for the king and queen of each band are elaborate and colorful, sometimes on wheels and sometimes motorized.
Music includes calypso, soca, and steel drums. Carnival cuisine in Trinidad consists of traditional Caribbean fare including curried chicken, curried goat, and roti.
Venice: Carnival in Venice celebrates traditions dating back to the 11th century when it involved 2 months of celebration. While it declined in the 18th century, in 1979, carnival was given new life as a 10-day celebration.
Carnival always features tasting menus at pop-up restaurants in the Grand Theater boxes at St. Mark's Square and other locations. Traditional dishes include Sarde in Saor and Venetian Soppressata.
Festivities include a variety of masquerade balls, cruises, concerts, and the Gran Carnival Gala at Luna Hotel Baglioni. Music is played on harpsichord, violin, and other stringed instruments and includes classical favorites like the minuet. Costumes are of the commedia dell'arte, historical, and fantasy variety. If you plan to take a group to Venice during carnival, be sure to book flights, hotel, and costumes well in advance.
New Orleans: Mardi Gras dates back to the 17th century. In New Orleans, brass and jazz bands provide the soundtrack for Mardi Gras.
Krewes (social clubs) collaborate and develop themed floats with costumed dancers and music. The Krewes throw balls, parties, and have contests to select the king and queen.
Krewe du Vieux has one of the few parades that goes through the historical French Quarter.
Mardi Gras cuisine features Creole favorites including Jambalaya, fried chicken, and rice with red beans.
For more carnival ideas read Toronto: It's Caribbean Carnival Time, 10 Tips for Creating Caribbean Corporate Events, It's Good to Be King in St. Louis for Mardi Gras, Winter Carnivals and Ice Festivals in Europe