Do Catholics have more fun? By Catholics I don’t so much mean practising Catholics as lapsed Catholics living in countries with a culture that is heavily dominated by its Catholic heritage. Spain, for instance.
Take this example, what do we do in Australia to mark the beginning of Lent? We eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day for the less religious), if you’re more devout maybe go to church for Ash Wednesday and decide on something to give up for Lent. But that’s it. In Spain (and, of course, other countries such as Italy and Brazil) the weekend before the beginning of Lent means Carnaval. Read: street parades, costumes, massive parties till dawn.
Taking these celebrations even further, in Asturias, there are two weekends of Carnaval. The first is on the actual weekend before Lent, and it is celebrated all over the region but the biggest parties are in Gijón and Avilés. Apparently everyone started leaving Oviedo for the weekend to go to the other two cities for Carnaval, resulting in a rather boring, quiet Carnaval. But this is Spain and there couldn’t possibly be a boring fiesta somewhere! So, Oviedo decided to move its Carnaval to the following weekend. Yes, the excessive partying and merriment (and in some quarters, drinking) now fall during Lent, the period of reflection, sobriety and preparation for Easter. See what I mean about lapsed Catholics?
Now that you’ve had an introduction to the idea of Carnaval I’ll be writing up my stories from the two weekends of fiestas this week. Look out for stories of all-night dancing, costume competitions and pouring rain in the next few days!