If you think February is only about Valentine's Day, think again. True, couples all around the world are getting all lovey-dovey during this month, but in certain parts, they're living it up and having a ball! From Venice to New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro, February is the month of carnivals! This is the time when people are parading out on the streets, dancing their butts off, and having the time of their lives. In Mardi Gras in New Orleans, they're playing jazz and pouring drinks. In the Rio Carnival, floats are taking over the famed coastal city. And in Venice, the masquerade upholds the month's beloved romance.
Without a doubt, the Rio Carnival is the most famous festival of its kind. It's even come to the point that Rio de Janeiro itself is known for dancing, frills, feathers, and of course, Samba! As the world has seen, the Rio Carnival is one huge parade of fabulous costumes, lively music, lots of cheering, and impeccable dancing. You almost couldn't believe it was real—almost as if a fantasy Samba world had come to life.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Terry George
Trinidad & Tobago Carnival
Over in the Caribbean
, Trinidad & Tobago is Rio's biggest rival in terms of the best carnivals in the world. Much like its Rio counterpart, this duo-island country's festival is held on the streets. People put on feathery frocks and dance their buttocks off for all the world to see. The Trinidad & Tobago carnival is most famous for Calypso, a genre of music and corresponding dance that originated from the country. You won't find any carnival that dances quite like the Trinidadians!
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Rawpixel.com
Crop Over Barbados
A fellow Caribbean Island
that also has a notable carnival is Barbados. Called the “Crop Over” Festival, the traditional event goes way back to the territory's plantation era. It was held to celebrate the end of the sugar cane harvest season, when all the work is done and what's left to do is party the night away. Though Crop Over has been around for more than two centuries now, it became even more famous thanks to one immensely popular Barbadian: Rihanna. The top-charting singer and beauty musical helped make the carnival almost as famous as Rio!
Source: Exceptional Caribbean/ ©2009 Mike Sheehan
Mardi Gras in New Orleans
There's only a handful of carnivals of the world that can give Rio a run for its money. One of them is the similarly iconic Mardi Gras in New Orleans, USA. The event is practically an American holiday
, especially in the South. Year after year, Mardi Gras never fails to draw in Americans from other States, not to mention tourists from around the world too. From feathered headdresses to colorful beads—not to mention the city's beloved jazz too!—the whole event is one big party you wouldn't want to miss!
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Carnaval de Oruro in Bolivia
Let's go back to South America for this next one. In Oururo, Bolivia, their local carnival is among the biggest in the sub-continent. It's nowhere near as big, grand, or popular as the festivals in Rio or Trinidad & Tobago, but it's worth seeing just the same. The event serves as an homage to the Virgin of Candelaria, the country's patron. As a result, this 10-day carnival is full of authentic Bolivian textiles and embroidery, making it as much a showcase of the country's craftsmanship and culture as it is a festive event.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ CassandraW1
Sinulog Festival in The Philippines
If you thought carnivals were only in the West, think again! Over in Southeast Asia
, Cebu's Sinulog Festival in the Philippines captures the festive spirit of these sorts of events. Much like its Central and South American counterparts, this carnival has religious roots—it pays homage to the Santo Niño, a statuette of Baby Jesus that the Spaniards gave to the Indigenous Filipinos in 1521. It's now the oldest Roman Catholic icon in the country. So to celebrate it, locals don extravagant feathered costumes and dance with replicas of the Santo Niño.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain
Speaking of Spain
, the carnival over at Santa Cruz de Tenerife is also a must-see! It's a glamorous event full of fancy costumes, huge feathers, gorgeous dancers, and more. In terms of scale, this event can also go toe-to-toe with the more iconic Rio Carnival, so much so that people practically wear full-on parade floats as costumes. What's most famous about the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival, however, is the Carnival Queen contest, a beauty pageant where women don the most extravagant costumes to win the title.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Tamara Kulikova.
Karneval Düsseldorf in Germany
You'd think that Germans, with their commonly stiff demeanor and stern reputation, would be the last country to have a carnival. But then again, this is the country of Oktoberfest
, after all. So the Germans still know how to have fun too. In Western Germany's Dusseldorf, the local carnival is admittedly more low-key compared to its Latin American counterparts. It still has its fair share of parties, costumes, dancing, and more, but it's not as exuberant. Notably, the Dusseldorf Carnival presents floats that outwardly present political views and figures.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Citanova Düsseldorf
Carnival of Binche in Belgium
Dating as far back as the 14th century, the Binche Carnival in Belgium
is one of the oldest in the world. As such, the event is also recognized by UNESCO, one of the very few in the world. Apart from its age, the Binche Carnival is also famous for its Gilles performers who wear big feather hats and throw oranges to the crowds. But make no mistake: the feathers here aren't as fantastical as the other carnivals on this list. They're mostly in white and are more comical in aesthetic.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Selcenc
No list of the best carnivals in the world would be complete without the Venice Carnival
. This is yet another iconic event that easily rivals the Rio Carnival, especially since its look and vibe are completely different. Though it's still festive in its own right, the Venice Carnival is more about ballgowns and masks than feather headdresses and sparky bodysuits. It's widely regarded as one of the most glamorous and romantic festivals in the world. It's a definite must-see!
Source: Wikimedia Commons
You need to put going to any of the must-see carnivals of the world on your bucket list. Be it in Rio, Trinidad, Venice, or New Orleans, these fabulous festivals are must-sees! They'll give you an experience you won't ever forget.