Bataille de Fleurs, Carnaval de Nice 1976
Carnival is a centuries old reversing ritual, during which social statuses are reversed, and rules of conduct forgotten. Masked and dressed-up people enjoy and revel in food and drink abundantly, during the days prior to Lent. A festival that probably finds its roots in pre-historic pagan traditions that – like Christmas – have been adjusted to fit into Christianity.
The exact origin of the word Carnival is unknown.
On ‘Mardi Gras’, Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, people used to eat all the fat they kept in the house, in order to keep it from perishing. For that reason Carnival could be diverted from the Latin Carne Vale, which means ‘Farewell to Meat’, words with a clear ambiguous meaning, because they’re about fasting as well as about carnal pleasures. Carne Valere, ‘Meat Reigns’ – ambiguity again – could also have been the basis of the expression that is used nowadays.
Rio de Janeiro with its ‘Escolas de Samba’ is world famous for its festivities, as well as New Orleans with ‘Mardi Gras Parades’, but also Venice, known for its ‘Maschere’, and Nice, famous for its ‘Bataille de Fleurs’, draw hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, mainly party animals who all go stark raving mad.