On the day and days before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins in the Roman Catholic tradition, a national party called “Carnival“ takes places in Venezuela and in many other predominantly Catholic countries around the world. Carnival is observed with a public holiday in Venezuela.
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Once Lent begins, people will give up eating red meat and other pleasures for 40 days until the arrival of Easter. Just before the fast begins, a feast like no other breaks out. Venezuelans are known for being happy, active, and always ready to party. Carnival just seems to fit their national personality, so to speak, and so it’s not surprising it is much anticipated all year round.
Both the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday are national holidays in Venezuela, which means there is a four-day weekend around Carnival time. Everyone is off work and out of school, and the atmosphere is truly electric. Samba and Calypso song and dance are especially popular in modern Venezuela.
The festivities begin with the traditional “shout of Carnival”. Then, people are doused with water from water balloons, buckets, or hoses to cool them down during the hot weather that is typical of Carnival. Parades flood the streets across numerous Venezuelan cities for days on end. Floats, costumes, contests, confetti in the air, and candy thrown out on the streets for children to gather are all customary. The choosing of the Carnival Queen is a major affair as well.
In gloomy economic times and in tumultuous political climates, you will often see parade floats that double as protests. This is a way of voicing an opinion in a peaceful but poignant fashion.