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Carnival of Paris

Carnival of Paris

When February arrives you are definitely fed up with winter. You check how much longer each day is and wonder whether the snow that has just fallen will be the last this wintertime. This is why Carnival is celebrated so wildly and noisily. The carnival season is the crazy time preceding Lent and it’s a ray of sunlight in these gloomy days – and a real joy.

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“The giant clown of the Paris carnival” 1897, photo: wikipedia

The big event is going to start in 8 days – only 8 days! February 17th „Fat Tuesday” or Mardi Gras, will be the last day of the Carnival season. It always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Most Christian countries celebrate Carnival in some way. Paris, as one of Europe’s brightest gems, has always been very particular about Carnival. Carnival events in Paris date back to the 15th century and the 19th and 20th Centuries saw an ever-increasing number of masked balls celebrating the event. While the elite and Bohemia celebrated Carnival at the opera, the working and middle class took part in a great street parade, which was also the feast of the Paris police.

The Carnival of Paris was interrupted between 1952 and 1997. Parisians longing for Carnival revelries had to go to Nice or Rio de Janeiro, by then already the world capitals of street festivities.

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Édouard Manet “Bal masqué à l’opéra” 1873, photo: wikipedia

The truth is that very few Parisians realize that the Carnival of Paris has such a long history. Such awareness has to be built anew. Parades are now back in the streets including the Promenade du Boeuf Gras (the Parade of the Fat Cow), that is held on Sunday, February 15th, and sets off from Place Gambetta Paris XX, and marches through the central streets of the city before ending at the Republic Square. Each year the parade attracts more than fifty thousand spectators who enjoy live entertainment, music, street theater, jugglers and acrobatic shows.

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Pablo Picasso “Harlequin” 1918, photo: wikiart

The Carnival de Paris, as one of the most important annual festivities in the city has inspired many great artists. Édouard Manet painted a masked ball at the Opera as well as street parades with thousands of people gathered. Naturally, Pablo Picasso did not miss such colorful themes in his work either. I must admit that his harlequins have been the inspiration for my costume this year. I’m going to the University masked ball and have decided to shine as a harlequin. But which to choose? It is one of the most popular themes in Picasso’s works. He painted dozens of them! I think, I will stay with the classic diamond theme and the characteristic tear in the eye.

And how are you spending Mardi Gras? E-mail me: madeleine@travelbyart.com and write how this day looks like in the place where you live!

Yours Madeleine