Revellers around the world are celebrating Mardi Gras — or Fat Tuesday — a day of rich foods, colorful parades, and raucous parties before Lent, a 40-day period of repentance leading to Easter.
The holiday comes as a number of European countries facing overwhelming national debt are cutting budgets, benefits, and jobs.
But in Portugal, revellers refused to let the sobering economic news damper their spirits. Tens of thousands of Portuguese turned out in elaborate and colorful costumes for the Carnival parades and samba dancing.
“It’s a day of total relaxation. The crisis is here to stay, but carnival is carnival. We’ll always come here, always.”
In Brazil’s Rio di Janeiro, the party has been raging since Friday, in one of the world’s most well-known Carnival celebrations. Hundreds of thousands of tourists and residents have gathered in neighborhood street parties. Some dress in nun and priest costumes, reflecting the religious origins of the festival. But today’s alcohol-fueled parties are otherwise mostly secular affairs.
In the southern U.S. city of New Orleans, preparations for Tuesday’s parade began months ago. Groups known as “Krewes” come up with concepts for their elaborate floats, and artists spend months building them.
“We started in September making the flowers. But the whole process starts earlier. It starts with the idea-making process, then they have to draw pictures, and it continues on. The art director and the artist get together and decide what is going to be the theme for the year and what each float is going to look like.”
New Orleans’ celebration is one of the most popular in North America.