Carnival came and went like every other holiday. However, unlike any other holiday that I have experienced, this one was just as eclectic as it was normal strangely enough. A brief history of the modern form of Carnival takes us back to the Catholic Church’s roots. Carnival is a time of celebration prior to the Christian season of Lent which is filled with fasting, praying, and abstaining from certain practices. Therefore, Carnival is a time to party, feast, drink, and live free before the days of Lent. Historically, society in Europe had a strict hierarchy of peasants and the aristocracy. During the majority of the year, the peasants lived miserable lives filled with laborious work, poor diets, and strict Church doctrine. Once Carnival came around, it gave the peasants an excuse to have fun (a social outlet if you will). The idea of dressing up for Carnival came from the historical ideas of mocking the upper class…so peasants used to dress as the aristocracy, mayors, and statesmen in a way to turn society upside down. Now-a-days Carnival isn’t quite the same, but it carries with it the same fun characteristics that make a good festival.
Many people traveled to Southern Spain in Andalucia to experience Carnival, because cities such as Sevilla and Cadíz are famous for their festivals. However, I decided to stay in Toledo because I heard they would have a great Carnival as well — and they did. Carnival was like several U.S. festivals wrapped into one, there was costumes like Halloween, fireworks like the 4th of July, and street vendors/performers like Memorial Day weekend festivals. The closest thing we have in the States to Carnival is Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but that barely compares to the weeklong festivals in Spain. The festivities culminated on Saturday night with a parade to kick the evening off. The parade had floats and marching bands like the U.S. but their outfits were different than typical costumes in the U.S. After the parade we went to the main plaza of the town to watch the live music. The town had paid for two large stages in its two biggest plazas to have entertainment all night long — even until 6am! We spent the night walking through the crowded streets and admiring the clever costumes that the locals were wearing. The best part of the night had to be when there was a change between the bands and the house music started playing in this filled plaza where everybody was gathered in circles with their friends. All of a sudden the plaza in front of the cathedral turned into a huge outdoor rave — it was definitely a sight to see.
The next day, the festivities continued with more live music and vendors during the day. At night they burned a giant Paper Mache fish (don’t know why) and had a large fireworks show over the river — not a bad way to end the weekend. Unfortunately, that next Monday morning kicked off the week of midterms. Needless to say Carnival is a weekend I will never forget.