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The word carnival comed from the Latin 'carne valle' meaning 'goodbye to meat' alluding to the need to use up meat before Lent. Today the word has a totally different meaning - Thank God!

The origins of carnival come from the hedonistic feasts of ancient Rome and Greece but their modern day celebration was invented in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. These festivals are well known for drinking, dancing dressing up and more often not dressing up !

People dressed up at carnival to hide their identity so they could party hard and not be blamed for sinful acts - oh the shame!
The carnival is presided over by King Momo (Rei Momo in Portuguese or Rey Momo in Spanish), who on the opening day orders his subjects to party. Momo is usually a fat tall man or a large paper mache doll.

After years of street dancing we have finally compilled the definitive Carnivals of the World Top 10 list. After much deliberation we have the best carnivals of 2012 based on our experiences and your suggestions on Facebook, twitter and on our website. We think the list below is a fair reflection of the best carnivals in the world, if you disagree add a carnival to here or else...tough!

Carnaval Checklist
- Camera
- Small amount of cash
- Funky costume
- Lots of Water & a little alcohol (is that the wrong way round?)
- Hat (if you are bald & can't take the sun!)
- Disposable camera
- Pen to mark off items on checklist
No.10 Mardi Gras in New Orleans
21st February 2012

This originated as a French fertility ritual. In 1699 Iberville, the French explorer, stopped on the banks of the Misissipi river and celebrated the advent of Spring as he knew his fellow countrymen were back in France doing likewise. There is no record of women attending this event, hence we may concluded this Mardi Gras was beadless :@( Today beads define this event but there are lots of other great reasons to go there like the music and parades.
No.9 Barranquilla Columbia
18th - 21st February 2012

In 2003, UNESCO declared Barranquilla's carnival to be a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Every year thousands of tourists delare Barranquilla's carnaval to be a Masterpiece of Partying. This festival is a fusion of European, African and Indian traditions. This begins four days before Ash Wednesday and reaches its climax the next Saturday during Batalla de las Flores/battle of the flowers where the colour of the Colombians come face to face in a unique battle of color, flowers, beauty, and peace. The typical carnival characters of Rey Momo, María Moñitas, and Hombre Caimán are involved in this parade as well as the carnaval queen, dwarves and large puppet heads!

The following day the Desfile de la Gran Parada/the great parade takes place with torito folk dances, Garabato dancers, and the dances of the hilanderas/spinners. There is also the 84th Street Parade also known as the Funeral of Joselito Carnaval where the carnival queen dresses in black throwing flowers at everyone and mourns the loss of Joselito. Joselito is a festival character for everyone to impersonate or carry a figure of, it signals the end of the celebrations and Dios Momos big party.
No.8 Brooklyn Carnival
September 3rd 2012

The West Indie Carnival in Brooklyn begins at 11am an the route is Utica Avenue to Grand Army Plaza along Eastern Parkway. This celebration takes place from the Thursday to Labor day with a Dimanche Gras/Fat Sunday, a Kiddie Carnival and a steel drum competition then the main parade on Labor Day Monday. This is New Yorks biggest outdoor event attracting over a million party people and the traditions of the Labor Day are mainly Caribbean- this is one not to be missed.
No.7 Goa
18th - 21st February 2012

Nowhere else in India celebrates carnival as it was introduced by the Portuguese who ruled over Goa for over five hundred years.This festival was actually in decline before the liberation of Goa and since then it has attracted thousands of visitors from all around the globe. Despite being a Christians celebration the three-day street party has also taken many Hindu and western traditions.

Then begins the weeklong event, which is a time of unbridled festivity and merry-making, which has been celebrated since the 18th Century. For these couple of days there are bands on floats and people dancing everywhere all nights, there are also grand balls held in the evenings. At the end of the week the festivities conclude with the famous red-and-black dance held by the Club National in Panajim.
No.6 Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival
17th - 26th February 2012

Once banned by the Spanish dictator Franco this is one of the biggest crowd pullers in the world. None of the usual rules apply here: there is lots of cross dressing and the patry doesn't hit the streets until midnight !

Tenerife's carnaval begins with the opening parade & the election of a Carnaval Queen followed. Maids of Honour and entourages are driven through the streets of Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz accompanied by the traditional ‘murgas’ in clown costume and other revellers in colorful costumes.

The ‘Burial of the Sardine’ marks the half way point on Ash Wednesday when hordes of weeping ‘widows’ follow a funeral cortège for a giant papier mâché sardine down to the harbour where the ‘corpse’ is set alight and fireworks light up the sky and eerie singing fills the air. The ‘Gran Cosa Apoteosis’ is the closing parade of Carnaval when eggshells and cloth balls held together by paste and thrown onto the passing parade from windows and balconies. Other fun times include the Drag Marathon.
No.5 Notting Hill
August 27th 2012 - August Bank Holiday

This is the second biggest carnaval in the world, Notting Hill usually brings crowds of about a million people observing and about 60,000 people participating in the performances. The carnival has 5 types of music : Calypso, Steel pan / pans, Mas (masquerade), Static and Mobile systems. There’s a great variety of African and Caribbean beats.
No.4 Oruro
17th - 22nd February 2012

Expect Around 600,000 people line the streets during Oruro Carnival with hundreds of traditional Bolivian bands, thousands of traditional dancers and a procession that takes a full day to end. The parade is led by San Miguel who is followed by devils, El Tio - lord of the underworld and lots of conquistadores painted like devils. This parade makes its way to the soccer stadium where good triumphs over evil through the art of dance. Also many farmers and miners offer the fruit of their labour for the carnival.
No.3 Rio Carnival
17th - 22nd February 2012

When people think carnaval they think Rio De Janeiro. This city oozes cool from Ipanema to Copacabana and the coolness peaks in the days leading up to lent. The streets of Rio are lined with samba schools and as blocos pass through the streets there is a deafening thunder of drums. The humidity is too much for scantilly clad locals who chase the blocos around town. The well known Rio blocos include:

Cordão do Bola Preta This traditional bloco is in the centre of the city and about 600,000 people can attended it.

Suvaco do Cristo This is the Botanic Garden area under the Redeemer's arm (kinda in his armpit actually!).

Carmelitas This group was supposedly created by nuns, but in fact it is just a theme chosen by the band. They usually play around the hills of Santa Teresa.

Simpatia é Quase Amor One of the most popular parades in Ipanema. Translates as ‘Friendliness is almost love’.

Banda de Ipanema The original Ipanema bloco attracting families, drag queens and the gay population.
No.2 Olinda, Brasil
17th - 22nd February 2012

Most Brazilians will tell you that Olinda has the best carnaval in Brazil. Why ? well for starters Pernambuco (the region) has the unique trevo music, afoxé instruments, colorful umbrellas & Maracatu (mix of theatre and dance) umbrellas as well as foliõe bands and the parading of giant dolls.

The festival has a more African influence compared to the European feel of the Rio carnival which is evident in the flirty dances like the gut flexing bate-coxa, the umbrella-spinning frevo, the noble maracatú or the extremely graceful caboclinho. The carnival celebrations can start as early as December in Olinda & neighbouring city of Recife so a trip to the Pernambuco could encompass a couple of days in each. In Recife the carnival on Boa Viage can be overpriced and you will get a more authenthic experience at Recife Antigo. Try to get to Galo da Madrugada it's a rooster crowing world and kicks off a serious party at 5.30am on the first Saturday of carnival in Bairro de São José.. Salvador de Bahia is also great for carnival butwe have to stop here before we name every town in Brazil
No.1 Trinidad
17th - 22nd February 2012

Trinidad's carnival is the meeting of European religion, brought by the Settlers, and African culture, brought by African slaves, who were also paying respect to African mythology and music. If you're going to make it here plan well ahead.

Bring plenty of spare clothes - you never know how you will feel on the day! The most popular dance is calypso followed by the soca but also beware of Wining this is grinding and if you are a tourist (or look like one) expect ot be on the receiving of much Wining :)

Many of the carnival bands will provide snacks - for many tourists carnival is a long day drinking in the sun!

BTW We know there are a few who didn't make this list :( like the Amazonian carnival Boi Bumba in Parintins, Mardi Gras in Sydney, the Venice carnival & the Rejavik carnival- maybe next year!
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