Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Carnival, a word of uncertain derivation but generally considered to be a lightening or recreation of the flesh, is the name of a time of mirth and festival immediately preceding the time of Lent. It is more appropriate to Catholic countries than others, since where no particular gloom attaches to Lent there is no special object in feasting beforehand. It is generally marked by masked and travestied processions accompanied by a throwing about of flowers, or bonbons, or, in these degenerate days, flour, indigo, and other objectionable matters, and admits of a general licence which up to a certain point and within certain limited times and places is winked at by the authorities. Of old the carnival began at Epiphany, but it is usually confined at the present time to the few days immediately preceding Lent. In some towns no masks are allowed after 9 a.m. on Ash Wednesday. There is generally a renewal of the carnival festivities upon Mid-Lent Sunday. The carnival at Nice and Mentone has of late years attracted much attention in England, and many English take part in it. It is more suitable for the sunny south than for the colder north; and few things are more ghastly than a carnival procession on a cold raw rainy day of North Europe. It is a question whether the carnival be a relic of the Roman saturnalia or of some spring feast, or of both, or neither. The word itself differs in different countries. It is Carnival in England, Carnaval in France, and Carnovale in Italy.