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Catholic Culture: Pre-Lenten Celebrations

It’s Fat Tuesday! The last hurrah before the long season of Lent; many Catholic cultures around the world have interesting (and rowdy) ways to celebrate.

Here are ten pre-lenten celebrations worth traveling to:

A float is seen in the parade down St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

No Fat Tuesday post would be complete without America’s most famous party: Mardi Gras. The pre-lenten season actually begins on the Epiphany (January 6th) with a masked ball and rolls all the way through to Fat Tuesday, culminating in five crazy days of parties and parades.

Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago

This is a major street party with costumes, parades, dance shows, food festivals, and steel-drum band competitions.

Carnival, Martinique

This pre-lenten festival is dedicated to devilish mischief. Fat Tuesday is known as Red Devils Day when people parade in red-and-black costumes. The celebrations end with the mourning of King Carnival on Ash Wednesday, signaling the start of the fasting season.

Read more: Catholic Culture: Ash Wednesday Trumps Valentines Day


Fiesta de las Flores y las Frutas, Ecuador

This is more of a harvest festival with flamboyant costumes, floats, fireworks, and lots of peach-flavored wine (sounds yummy!).

Carnival, Rio de Janeiro

Just like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Brazil is known worldwide for their pre-lenten parties. The best known part is probably the Rio Samba Parade that takes place in a huge stadium.

Read more: Catholic Culture: Mardi Gras & Ash Wednesday 2019


Patras Carnival, Greece

These events were adapted from the pre-Christian festivals to Dionysus (the god of wine, perfect huh!?). The pre-lenten festivities begin on January 17th and stretch to Ash Wednesday. One of the final events is a lavish parade and kite-flying (weird…).

Read more: Catholic Culture: Traveling during Lent


Carnevale, Venice

Venice is really the ground zero for Fat Tuesday events around the world. The Venetian Carnevale has its origins in the 13th century and continues to evolve today. One of the most popular things to buy in Venice year-round is a Carnevale mask and I picked up this classy black mask a couple of years back.

Fasching, Germany

This is a six-day festival that takes place all around Germany with each village and city adding their personal flavor to it. The Monday before Ash Wednesday typically has an all-night carnival ball (I guess they take Tuesday as a day to recoup?)

The carnival begins in Germany

Karneval, Cologne

So in Cologne, Germany the carnival season begins November 11th!!! That’s ridiculous, sheesh! They have over 500 different events, parades, balls, concerts, and celebrations between then and Ash Wednesday; that’s like 5 months of partying.

Carnaval, Spain

The city of Sitges starts their week-long festivities on Fat Tuesday with a ceremony to raise “‘King Carnestoltes’ from the dead” and it all ends with a medieval parade.


P.S. All items on list have been adapted from National Geographic’s Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations.

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