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Le Carnaval et le Mardi Gras
by Delphine, age: 12 years
J'adore le Carnaval!
In France, le Carnaval is a fun period that takes place just before le Carême - Lent.
It is a time when on se déguise - people wear fancy-dress costumes - and there are parades, street parties and lots to eat before the fasting period of Lent.
The final day of le Carnaval is known as le Mardi Gras - Shrove Tuesday.
There are popular carnivals that take place in many French towns but the biggest and most famous one is in Nice on la Côte d'Azur. It lasts for two weeks, finishing on le Mardi Gras.
Le Carnaval de Nice has a different theme each year. The theme always involves a king - un roi and every year le roi is the king of something different. In 2020, the theme was le Roi de la Mode - the King of Fashion. In 2021 the carnival did not take place due to the pandemic. The theme for 2022 was le Roi des Animaux - the King of the Animals. This year, 2023, we have le Roi des Trésors du Monde - the King of the World's Treasures.
The king of the carnival is referred to as Sa Majesté Carnaval. He is a giant figure who takes part in the parades - les corsi. He is transported on le char royal - the royal float.
Photo: le Roi du Cinéma - 2019.
Some previous kings were......
Le Roi de la Musique - 2015
Le Roi du Sport - 2012
Le Roi de la Méditerranée - 2011
In addition to the all-important figure of 'the king', le Carnaval de Nice is well-known for:
les corsi - the parades, les corsi illuminés - the illuminated night time parades, les chars - the floats, la musique - the music, les danseurs - the dancers, les batailles de fleurs - the throwing of flowers, les grosses têtes - the 'big heads', les confettis - confetti, les spectacles - the shows and les costumes.
Le Roi de la Planète Bleue - 2010
The king and the other characters, all with massive heads known as les grosses têtes, are made from a solid cardboard called le carton-pâte.
On the final day of the festivities - le Mardi Gras - the king of the carnival is burnt in a bonfire ceremony called l'Incinération du Roi.
Next year, there will be a new king with a different theme!
The words Mardi Gras actually mean 'fat Tuesday'. This is known as Shrove Tuesday in English.
Question: Why is it called 'fat Tuesday'?
Réponse: It is the last day when you can eat everything you like before the fasting period of Lent - le Carême.
Le Carême is another way of saying 'forty days'. During le Carême people prepare for the solemn period of Holy Week - la Semaine Sainte. Traditionally, they would prepare for Holy Week by not eating any meat or eggs during the forty day period. So, people decided to 'manger gras' - literally: to eat fatty, rich food containing meat and eggs, before giving it up for Lent.
In France, during the days leading up to le Mardi Gras, it is the tradition to eat les crêpes - pancakes, les gaufres - waffles and les beignets - doughnuts.
It is a good way to use up any extra sugar and eggs that should not be used during le jeûne - the fasting period - of le Carême.
The day after le Mardi Gras is Ash Wednesday - le Mercredi des Cendres - and the beginning of le Carême (Lent). Originally, during this period people would manger maigre - meaning 'to eat a fat-free diet' - without meat and eggs and in general they would be on their best behaviour until Easter Day.
In other words, Lent is the opposite of the parties and feasts of le Carnaval et le Mardi Gras!
Bonne fête et amusez-vous bien!
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