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March 2014

Celebrating Mardi Gras around the world!

Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is a celebration held around the world. It is a party recognized by great fanfare, an acknowledgement of the beginning of Lent when fasting and abstinence is practiced. Ash Wednesday follows Fat Tuesday, marking the beginning of the 40-day Lenten season, which culminates with Easter.

How do cultures around the world celebrate Mardi Gras? We’ll find out today!

If you know anything about Brazil, you are most likely aware of the Carnival in Rio, the biggest Carnival celebration in the world. Over two million locals and visitors fill the streets in Rio alone, moving with music and dance (notably, the samba). Celebrations are not limited to Rio, as the country’s smaller cities and towns hold parties of their own. Expect elaborate floats, bombastic costumes and more colors than a double rainbow. Popular genres of music played include the samba-enredo and the marchinha. With nearly five million people drawn within the country in 2011 (including 400,000 visitors), it's no surprise that the Carnival of Brazil is the country's most famous holiday.

Italy's Fat Tuesday (Martedì Grasso) has roots in the ancient Roman festival Saturnalia. Can you guess which city is most famed for hosting said celebration? (Think masks...) That's right, Venice! The home of the ubiquitous Venetian mask is also the birthplace of the modern Carnival (or Carnevale, as it’s known in the country) celebration. In the Northern Italian city of Ivrea, you’ll also find the famous Battle of the Oranges, the largest food fight in Italy.

College party fanatics aren’t the only types who head down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The heavily French-influenced American city celebrates in a manner befitting the original French colonists that first settled there. Grand masquerade balls are held across Louisiana, and a formal parade fills the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter. And, since it's New Orleans, visitors can expect lots of Jazz, ridiculously strong cocktails and more mixed-in culture than a hot pot of gumbo.

To find the biggest Carnival celebration in the Caribbean, head to Trinidad and Tobago. From an early morning start, revelers begin partying on Monday in darkness for a celebration known as J'Ouvert (from jour ouvert or “day open”). The celebration incorporates local traditions, and participants dance in costumes of monsters, devils and other sinister creatures bathed in chocolate, mud and paint.

The Mardi Gras celebration in Sweden is known as Fastan (from fett tisdag or “Fat Tuesday”). Traditionally, this is the only day a person should eat the sweet delicacy known as fastlagsbulle. Not familiar with fastlagsbulle? It's a traditional sweet roll that's popular in various forms in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Latvia and other nearby regions. Served often with delicious warm milk, you can also find fastlagsbulle served with whipped cream and almond paste. Of course, a bit of chocolate drizzle on top doesn't hurt either (it's not called "Fat Tuesday" for nothing).

How does your country recognize Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent? Let us know on our Facebook Page and be sure to “like” TELC English to stay updated on more fun cultural facts!

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