Salut again! I’m so happy to finally be back from a last winter lull that included an up close and personal experience with the French health system, but more on that later. Today it is time to celebrate Carnaval! It’s Fat Tuesday all over the world, and maybe one of my all time favorite Spanish holidays. Spanish holiday, you ask? A five day celebration that brings the old and the young to the streets in costumes, marking the start of the Lent season, in Spain the biggest Carnaval celebrations are in Cadiz and Las Palmas, and Verín in Galicia. When we lived in Galicia, carnaval, or Entroido en Galician, was a moment in the year we were planning and waiting for for months.
We always celebrated Ourense, where quiet towns are suddenly filled with music, laughter, partying, and general locura for one weekend. The first year, I had no idea what I was in for, so Diego and the crew went all out to give me the best welcome to the world of carnaval in Verín.
A weekend of non-stop costumes, laughter, parades, live music, dancing in the streets until dawn ensued. We narrowly escaped the most famous entroido tradition in Verín, the cigarrón, local men dressed in elaborate and eye-catching costumes of pom-pom shorts, huge wooden masks, and cow bells, chasing people through the streets with whips, causing a ruckus and getting the spirit of carnaval going day and night. And finally, we recuperated with the classic Galician pork stew, caldo, and the traditional cake, bica. After a weekend in Verín, Halloween was easily ousted from its place as the best costume holiday in my book.
Carnaval is time off from work and school spent with family and friends, a time to find a ridiculous costume and a group of friends, and a time to simply enjoy life and have fun in the midst of the cold and grey winter. We made sure to celebrate every year – and since then Fat Tuesday has a new meaning. So, wherever you are, and however you choose, take some time to brighten up your winter day with a delicious calorie packed sweet treat, a witty drink with friends, or maybe a costume party. Happy Carnaval!