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7 Carnivals Around the World

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which begins Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and sacrifice practiced by many Christians before Easter. Tradition dictates that all of one's gluttony, lust, pride, and the other sins be purged by the beginning of Lent. And so carnival was born, a venue for everyone to engage in those carnal excesses before they are taken away.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

The French and English who colonized Trinidad in the 18th century brought the pre-Lenten festival to that Caribbean island. They also brought African slaves to work the sugar cane fields, who were excluded from the festivities. After emancipation in 1838, the former slaves took carnival for their own. Today, thousands of people in Trinidad and Tobago join in costumed street parades, masquerade balls, and concerts featuring calypso and steelpan music. Image by Flickr user sfmission.com.

The Carnival of Venice

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The Carnival of Venice is the oldest of these celebrations, dating back to at least 1268. The most distinguishing feature of the Venetian celebration is the extensive use of masks. In previous centuries, some people would wear masks every time they stepped out in public between Christmas and Ash Wednesday! The idea behind the masks is that you cannot tell the social status of the person wearing one, so everyone is equal during carnival. Image by Luigi Scarantino.

Carnaval de Barranquilla

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The Carnival of Barranquilla, Colombia takes place for only four days before Lent, but what it lacks in length is made up in size. The Grand Parade on Saturday attracts up to half a million spectators. Celebrations include feasts, street dances, and concerts featuring a variety of musical styles. Image by Flickr user Fotorito.

Entrudo

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Fat Tuesday in Portugal is called Entrudo. In centuries past, this festival included street brawls in which participants threw mud or food at each other. In the town of Lazarim, Entrudo is celebrated in traditional style, with a poetry reading to pass judgment on the people, followed by a parade of townsfolk in traditional wooden masks and the burning of effigies. Image by Flickr user Alvaro_I.

Fastelavn

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Fastelavn is the Danish carnival. It began as a pre-Lenten festival when Denmark was a Catholic country, but when the nation became mostly Protestant, the celebration remained in a somewhat more secular form. Children dress in costumes and collect candy, much like trick-or-treating. There is also a pinata-like game called "beat the cat out of the barrel". In modern times, the barrel is full of candy, but up until a hundred years ago. the barrels would contain real cats. Image by Flickr user tordisvej.

Mardi Gras

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The pre-Lent festival in usually called Mardi Gras in America. The biggest celebrations are concentrated in Louisiana. New Orleans is home to a dozen or so krewes, or social organizations which carry out Mardi Gras activities each year. Each krewe holds its own masquerade balls, stages their own parades, and crowns their own royalty. New Orleans Mardi Gras season is spread out over a couple of weeks.

Rio

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The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is thought to be the biggest such celebration in the world. A half-million tourists from foreign countries attend every year in addition to nearly a million Brazilians. The celebration grew out of a the Portuguese Entrudo. The grand parade in Rio is filled with floats and marchers from the many local "samba schools", which aren't really schools at all, but social clubs formed around parade participation, somewhat like the krewes of New Orleans. There are also genuine dance groups and drum crews in the parade. Since carnival is in late summer in Brazil, the parade is famous for pushing the boundaries of near-nudity. But carnival in Rio also means food, concerts, and dancing. Image by Flickr user sfmission.com.
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These are just a few of the celebrations taking place this month. Read about more carnival celebrations in other parts of our world.

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8 City Maps Rendered in the Styles of Famous Artists
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Vincent van Gogh once famously said, "I dream my painting and I paint my dream." If at some point in his career he had dreamed up a map of Amsterdam, where he lived and derived much of his inspiration from, it may have looked something like the one below.

In a blog post from March, Credit Card Compare selected eight cities around the world and illustrated what their maps might look like if they had been created by the famous artists who have roots there.

The Andy Warhol-inspired map of New York City, for instance, is awash with primary colors, and the icons representing notable landmarks are rendered in his famous Pop Art style. Although Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, he spent much of his career working in the Big Apple at his studio, dubbed "The Factory."

Another iconic and irreverent artist, Banksy, is the inspiration behind London's map. Considering that the public doesn't know Banksy's true identity, he remains something of an enigma. His street art, however, is recognizable around the world and commands exorbitant prices at auction. In an ode to urban art, clouds of spray paint and icons that are a bit rough around the edges adorn this map of England's capital.

For more art-inspired city maps, scroll through the photos below.

[h/t Credit Card Compare]

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China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall
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The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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