What is Fat Tuesday & How do Global Celebrations Vary

People of Catholic faith around the world celebrate Carnival preceding the start of Lent. In Latin, Carnival means “farewell to meat” signifying the importance of not eating meat during the Lenten season. Lent is the 40-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017, the day after Fat Tuesday, February 28, and ends on Easter Sunday, April 16. During this 40 day Lenten period, Christians fast, or give up something of sacrificial value, to honor the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians choose various items to abstain from during their fast, for example, sugar, caffeine, and meat.

Cities with large Catholic populations celebrate with public parades including ornate costumes and masks to celebrate Mardi Gras, which translates to “Fat Tuesday” in French, or Shrove Tuesday in the U.K. Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, when those of Christian faith may choose to indulge in fatty foods and alcoholic drinks as a celebration with family and friends before entering the Lenten period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

3 global cities that celebrate Mardi Gras:

Costumes during Carnaval do Brasil can be very revealing, and quite the culture shock for some.Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Carnaval do Brasil is South America’s biggest and most well-known celebration. Welcoming nearly a million tourists annually to join the fun, this Brazilian holiday includes endless street parties beginning the Saturday before Ash Wednesday through late Fat Tuesday night. At the heart of the Brazilian culture is the samba – these African-Brazilian dance schools play an important role in the Carnaval parades. Representing the working class, these dancers prepare for over a year in advance for Carnival. In Rio, thousands of beer liters are consumed during Carnival. Costumes can be very revealing, so be prepared for this when you arrive and lessen the culture shock!

Costumes during Carnaval do Brasil can be very revealing, and quite the culture shock for some.Venice, Italy

If you want to experience a variety of exquisite masquerade balls and parties, Carnevale di Venezia is the venue. These celebrations consist of portrayals of Venetian costumes with masks. International visitors may compete in the annual best costume competition, held during the Venice Carnival. Attending a ball or party requires tickets, see the website event timetable. Plan your costume, mask and itinerary accordingly before celebrating in the City of Water.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans displays past Mardi Gras Indian suits of Big Chiefs, Queens, and more.New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.

New Orleans hosts one of the U.S.A.’s infamous Mardi Gras celebration. From lively street parades to colorful beads, this cheerful Louisiana city attracts people worldwide with their energetic celebrations, regardless of their religion. Colorful costumes and masks create a vibrant atmosphere that participants and observers can enjoy, highlighting this southern state’s culture. If Mardi Gras travels lead you to NOLA, plan your transportation because most streets are police barricaded for the parade and public safety.

Whether your Mardi Gras travels take you to Brazil, Italy, or the USA, knowing what to expect in these unique venues will enhance your cultural experience!

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its second printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.