In many countries of the world, people use to celebrate carnivals annually. Even today, the significance of these events can not be overestimated because for those peoples holding carnivals these events does not mean a huge party. Primary, people consider carnivals as a celebration of life, and these events are an integral part of historical, cultural and social life of the whole societies. In this regard, using analysis of the two significant carnivals, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Brazil, their details should be examined more closely in order to estimate their cultural significance properly.
The whole families with their friends from all over the world annually visit the most large-scale fest in the world – Carnival in Brazil. Holding a carnival in Rio de Janeiro each year occurs on different dates, usually it is the end of February, beginning of March. Officially, Carnival starts on Saturday and ends on the following Wednesday called “Ash Wednesday”. Eventually, the carnival in Rio has gradually changed. In the last decades, so-called “the street carnival” was strongly reduced, and the whole carnival action was reduced almost completely to parade of samba schools. However, most recently, “the street carnival” again began to gain strength gradually (Tambke, 2009).
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Nowadays, there are some versions of the origin of the carnival, which traditions, according to some researchers, originate for 10 thousand years B.C. The word “carnaval” ascends to Latin expression “carrum novalis” with which ancient Romans opened the holidays. Other version supposes that this word originated from expression of “carnelevale”, which on a Milan dialect of Italian means “goodbye, meat” (meaning the beginning of a Christian fasting) (Lewis, 2013).
Traditionally, 12 schools of a samba participate in the Carnival. Each of them has a very great influence on cultural life in the country counting tens of thousands of fans. Spending almost the whole year and a huge amount of money on preparation and costumes, these schools do their best in order to win this fest. In this regard, samba schools make Brazilian Carnival a legendary, spectacular global event. For Brazilians, the carnival is a way of thinking. Carnival is a way of life not only for each certain Brazilian, but also the entire country. Brazil became the only country in the world, which experienced a complete carnivalization of life, uniting inhabitants of Brazil and other countries with one idea – to be filled with feeling of dance and song (Tambke, 2009).
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Other carnival, New Orleans Mardi Gras, became famous for the whole world as one of the most large-scale and colorful carnivals in the world. The holiday lasts about two weeks during which at least one fancy-dress procession with the participation of musicians and vehicles with figures passes every day. From vehicles, a huge amount of beads, coins, toys and other knickknacks fly to crowd. Besides, the city hosts the costume balls and a great variety of noisy parties attracting to New Orleans the huge number of youth from all corners of the country (Ross, 2014).
The true meaning of the carnival Mardi Gras is that it is a symbol of a meeting of spring and a farewell to winter. The major colors of the carnival are violet, yellow and green symbolizing justice, power and faith. In the religious tradition, this carnival represents the termination of seven “Fat Days”, but, of course, the meaning of the holiday is strongly enriched with new customs and habits (Raushenbush, 2012). In the USA, during these days, it is accepted to wear colorful masks and suits in a mass order, perform bright and very noisy carnivals and processions. This holiday often coincides with spring vacation in the majority of the American universities that allows students to take more than an active part in all amateur fancy-dress actions, mass celebrations and hours-long parties. In many regions of the country, Mardi Gras became, in fact, a student’s and youth holiday. Each year, about one million tourists visit Mardi Gras in New Orleans and leave there about 300 million dollars during holidays (Ross, 2014).
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Taking into account all the abovementioned information it should be said that the carnival as the cultural and historical phenomenon represents one of the most significant forms of the holiday, traditionally connected with the ancient pagan rites devoted to change of seasons. Thus, the carnival is the necessary cultural phenomenon, the inevitability of the existence of which, its continuous presence in the culture is defined by significance and the importance of sociocultural functions performed by it. By the example of the two carnivals, Mardi Gras and Brazilian Carnival, it should be mentioned that sociocultural functions of carnivals promote culture self-organization as a system and, hence, its further functioning and development.