Wetenschap - 2 maart 1995



Simply put, Carnival is a celebration of excesses which is best understood in the context of the Catholic observance of Lent. Also known as the fasting days, Lent is the period of forty days preceding Easter. It is traditionally a time of preparation and concentration before the remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - Easter. Fasting is a way of focusing oneself, and self denial is seen as a means of getting rid of pleasures which can be distracting.

As a response to the piety and rigidity of Lent, Carnival evolved into a celebration which championed the spirit of indulgence. This could be described as enjoying all the sinful pleasures before having to abstain from them. The word Carnival stems from the Old Italian Carnelevale, meaning abstention from meat eating (part of the fasting tradition of Lent). The costumes and masks also have a historical symbolism. To wear a mask was a gesture that the physical body was at the mercy of the will of other deities (animal, spirit, person, etc.) The person could therefore not be held accountable for any sins committed.

Carnival celebrations are most famous in countries where Catholicism is a predominant religion, though it is a phenomenon found in various cultures and countries. Whether it is street dancing, parades, feasting or old fashioned partying, carnival is a time for everyone to enjoy themselves.