Carnival is a festive season which normally occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life.

Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove Tuesday events.

The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. These include the Carnevale of Venice and the Carnevale of Viareggio, Italy, the German Rhineland carnivals, centering on the Carnivals in Düsseldorf, Cologne and Mainz; the carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands; in Andalusia(Spain)Carnival of Cádiz ; the carnaval of Torres Vedras, Portugal; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rijeka, Croatia; Barranquilla, Colombia; the Carnaval and the Llamadas in Montevideo, Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. In the United States, the famous Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, date back to French and Spanish colonial times.

It is a common assumption that carnival traditions were brought to colonies in the New World by Europeans. It is partly true of course, but the inspiration flowed even stronger from another part of the world. When looking at today’s street carnivals it is quite clear that ancient African traditions have had a very strong influence. The history of the carnival can be viewed from different angles, but one thing is sure: it is a result of a cross-cultural exchange that started centuries ago.