In the seventeenth century, "carnival" became the term of choice in Europe for festivities marked by masquerades, parades, a topsy-turvy social system with its own hierarchy and profuse eating and drinking. In the middle ages, it was called Shrove Tuesday, the celebration the evening before the Roman Catholic season of Lent, when revelers could engage in one last evening of debauchery and gluttony before starting to fast on Ash Wednesday in preparation for Easter. One of the interpretations of the word "carnival" draws a link between this exuberant party and the meatless fasting that follows it: "carne vale" means "flesh, farewell!" Another explanation tracks the word's origins to "carrus navalis", a wagon pulled through the streets on Fat Tuesday carrying masqueraded revelers.
Carnival in the Netherlands
Carnival is a festival that takes over daily life for three days predominantly in the provinces of Limburg and North Brabant. Carnival celebrants roam the streets in costume seeking each other out in pubs and clubs. These festive locations are decorated with masks and streamers, with a special carnival repertoire of music blaring.
The celebration is a movable feast: the date varies each year depending on when Easter is celebrated. Carnival falls on the seventh Sunday before Easter Sunday. On Carnival Saturday or Sunday, various Carnival Princes are handed the keys to villages and cities in a ceremony of pomp transferring civic power for three days. They celebrate the temporary establishment of their reign of fools with their subjects, the carnival revelers. Carnival celebrants dress up in their chosen get-ups and occupy the streets and pubs for a three-day bender. On one of those three days of carnival, they parade through the streets: the procession of Prince Carnival. At about midnight on Carnival Tuesday, a collective closing ceremony is held in many places as adieu is bid to the reign of fools and its Prince. Carnival mascots and symbols are then burnt, buried or drowned. Normal life resumes on Ash Wednesday.