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Cheapflights.com Explores the Wild World of Carnival

Let Loose With Its Top 10 Carnival Traditions Around the Globe

BOSTON, MA -- (Marketwired) -- 02/19/14 -- Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival -- all synonymous with one big party. Held each year leading up to Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year), Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations bring out some crazy partying and wild traditions in many parts of the world. The travel experts at Cheapflights.com, the online leader in finding and publishing travel deals, decided to explore the fascinating and diverse ways in which the revelry plays out around the globe. The team had plenty of fun coming up with their list of Top 10 Carnival Traditions, which includes everything from candy wars and glitzy beads to over-the-top costumes, exquisite masks and, yes, even a sardine burial.

Carnival season is upon us, so get ready to party. To help get you into the spirit, below are five carnival traditions to make our list of favorites:

  • Beads, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States - The two are so famously intertwined it almost feels as though you can't have Mardi Gras without New Orleans. Things kick off around two weeks before Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) with daily parades and celebrations throughout the city -- though funnily enough none of the major parades visit the infamous Bourbon Street and French Quarter due to their narrow streets. The parades are made up of floats created by different Mardi Gras krewes (clubs). As the floats make their way along the parade route, krewe members throw little trinkets into the crowd in the form of jewelry, toys and other small items to the cries of "throw me something, mister!" Of all these souvenirs the most famous are the beads. Until the 1960s, the beads were simple colored strands, but today they feature everything from animals, four-leaf clovers, figurines, sports logos, shot glasses and even LED lights! A popular myth surrounding the beads is that you need to show a bit of skin (especially if you're a woman) to receive them. The practice of flashing a bit of boob dates back to the 1880s and still happens around the tourist heavy areas of the city, but it certainly isn't the norm or the only way to get your hands on some beads. So don't worry if you're not comfortable going down the exhibitionist route (or you're a man), parade participants throw beads to fully clothed crowd members as well. Or you could always buy yourself a bunch from any of the many Mardi Gras shops around town.

  • Thousands of Dancers, Oruro, Bolivia - One thousand two hundred feet up in the mountains of western Bolivia lies the town of Oruro, an important pre-Columbian ceremonial site, especially known for the Ito festival, a religious ceremony that has been marked for more than 2,000 years. Despite colonization in 1606 that led to the Spanish banning their indigenous ceremonies, Oruro continues to be a sacred site for the Uru people. The Uru were able to practice their faith by concealing their gods behind Christian icons and the Ito festival gradually became a Christian ritual. The traditional llama llama (or diablada) became the main dance at the Carnival of Oruro. The main event takes place on Sunday as 28,000 dancers, 10,000 musicians and 400,000 visitors make their way along a two-and-a-half-mile processional route, repeating the journey for a full 24 hours dressed in extravagant outfits. The carnival was pronounced one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001.

  • Burial of the Sardine, Spain - A funeral for a fish is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of carnival, but that's exactly what happens in towns and cities across Spain. Celebrations in Spain kick off in the same colorful and vibrant fashion that is seen in carnivals the world over before finishing up with a giant dead fish. The Entierro de la Sardina (Burial of the Sardine) ceremony marks the end of carnival on Ash Wednesday. The "funeral" involves a procession complete with mourners dressed in black parading a model sardine in a coffin around the streets before it is finally set alight symbolizing rebirth and regeneration.

  • The Crazy Days, Cologne, Germany - Possibly the most appropriate name for the carnival period, Crazy Days celebrations start on Shrove Thursday with parties on the streets, in public spaces and in pubs (there are no closing times during the festival). The street carnival begins with the Women's Carnival (Weiberfastnacht) where local ladies dress up in their best costumes and cut off the ties of any man silly enough to come near them. The main event is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag), a loud, colorful parade with floats, horses, music and thousands of people dressed in costumes. Flowers and kamelle (candies) are thrown from the passing floats to shouts of "kamelle." Sometimes fancier items are thrown such as chocolate bars, bottles of cologne and small gifts.

  • Bellringers, Rijeka, Croatia - Every year in the villages around the portside city of Rijeka, big hairy bear-like characters come out to play. During Rijeka Carnival, Zvončari (bellmen) march from village to village chasing away evil spirits and starting the cycle of spring in an ancient pagan tradition that is now recognized by UNESCO. All this is part of Riječki Karneval, the largest carnival in Croatia, and while some of the traditions like the bellringers date back hundreds of years, the modern day celebrations were established in 1982. The standard Zvončari outfit is made up of white trousers, a striped shirt, a belt of bells and a sheepskin throw. Costumes vary slightly from village to village with some wearing animal head masks while others wear hats covered in beautiful flowers. When the wild progression reaches a village, the bellringers form circles in the town square making as much noise as possible until the residents offer them food and a place to rest before continuing to the next town. Once they have completed their duties, each bellringer returns home collecting rubbish at each home they pass and burning it in a final ceremony.

Rounding out our list of unique carnival rituals around the globe are: Gilles, Binche, Belgium; Masks, Venice, Italy; Burani, Tirnavos, Greece; Fastelavn, Denmark and Candy Wars, Vilanova, Spain. To read the fun details on these and Cheapflights.com's complete list of Top 10 Carnival Traditions, visit www.cheapflights.com/news/top-10-carnival-traditions.

About Cheapflights.com, part of the Momondo Group
Momondo Group is an online travel media and technology company that is driven by the belief that an open world is a better world. The group now serves travel search and inspiration to over 13 million visitors a month -- plus 7 million travel newsletter subscribers -- via its Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.com) and momondo (www.momondo.com) brands.

Skygate began the sourcing of complex air-travel data in 1992, while Cheapflights pioneered the online comparison of flight deals for users in 1996 and momondo launched meta-search in the Nordic countries in 2006.

The Group has offices in London, Copenhagen, Boston and Toronto, with a consumer base across more than 25 core international markets but users all over the world.

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