Carnaval In Cádiz, Spain
Carnaval hasn’t quite made it to the Western World yet (aka the U.S.), but in Europe it is a widely known and well celebrated party. Carnaval starts the weekend before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, and involves parades, masks and costumes, and debauchery, similar to Mardi Gras. Carnaval is traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic population. There are imaginative songs and skits, many times mocking and criticizing politics. Carnaval is the most important festival for Spanish tourism, and Cádiz spends up to 6 months preparing for the 10 day long celebration.
Carnaval is celebrated everywhere in Spain, from small villages to the big cities. Cádiz is Spain’s biggest mainland party and people come from everywhere in the world to people watch, dress in costume, and celebrate. Hotels sell out for miles within Cádiz months in advance. Buses come from all over Spain to bring people to party, then take them home (usually the buses arrive around 9pm Saturday night and leave at 7am Sunday morning, so people party all night in the Plaza de San Antonio). Carnaval lasts for 2 weekends.
All ages attend Carnaval, from 2 months old to 90 years old, and everyone dresses in costume. There’s no theme or color combination like at Mardi Gras; it’s like Halloween in the United States and people wear anything they want, but EVERYONE is in costume. People start planning for Carnaval months in advance and either make or buy their costumes; some are very elaborate (18th century gowns and suits), some are funny (men dressed as women), and some are group costumes (a plywood-made school bus going down a side street full of school teachers and students).
It is so important to dress in costume; you will really stick out if you’re not in costume, and you will probably be yelled at if you don’t have anything. A wig will do, but make sure to dress in costume!
In addition to parting and debauchery of all ages, there are many parades, street vendors, comedians, puppet shows, concerts, fireworks, and the witty, satirical singing groups which compete in prestigious contests.
Carnaval is a one-of-a-kind celebration that should be seen by everyone! I highly recommend visiting a country that celebrates Carnaval, such as Spain, at least once in your lifetime. Carnaval is not for the faint-hearted, but it should be on everyone’s bucket list!