Carnaval, Mardis Gras, Pancake Day

2010 February 2010 Freda Rumford Vickery

By Freda Rumford  from the February 2010 Edition

ALL OVER THE CHRISTIAN WORLD, people gather to celebrate Carnaval, Mardis Gras, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, depending upon which country they are currently living on the Tuesday before Lent. The next day is Ash Wednesday and the start of a time of penance and atonement so the day before is known as “Whooppee Day”.

In England, a small town called Olney, Bedfordshire, has an Annual Pancake Race, where competitors charge down for a 100 yard dash, tossing (and catching) a pancake three times as they go. The dress code is strictly enforced and consists of pinny (apron), headscarf, skirt and the all important frying pan. This race originated in 1445 and was re-enacted in the early 1950’s eventually reaching international status when the small town of Liberal, Kansas challenged the ladies of Olney to beat – if they could. Since then, the title of Pancake Queen has journeyed back and forth across the Atlantic with the time to beat being established last year at 68 seconds in Olney. Each town has their own prize and title for the local winner with the International title going to the winning town.

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the town goes literally mad, revellers parade through the main streets which are closed to all traffic and Samba schools vie for the title of Mardis Gras King and Queen. There are huge competitions for individual and Samba school costumes which often are on the drawing board for the next year immediately the current parade is over. Bigger, wider, briefer, higher, more scandalous and more colourful is the name of the game. New Orleans, Louisiana, also celebrates Mardis Gras or “Fat Tuesday” and parades throughout the streets take over for a massive celebration. Costumes vie for brevity and strings of beads are thrown to pretty girls with the cry” Show us your tits.” The winner is weighed down by the most beads. Even the most conservative people get caught up in whirlwind around them.

MANZANILLO, COLIMA, Mexico is not to be outdone. Tractor trailers decorated with palm trees, giant shells, effigies from favourite TV shows and lovely costumes are prepared throughout the day. In many cases it is impossible to tell the sex of the people on the float and the most beautiful “girls” are not really! The parade starts at 5.30 p.m. give or take a half hour or so, and then 16 or so floats set off from the Cinco de Mayo Fairground and wend their way to the Boulevard Miguel de la Madrid from Kentucky Chicken and then down the street for about 2 miles to the Las Brisas Crucero, then back so that the crowds lining both sides of the road can have their chance of waving at their friends. Everyone knows someone on a float but scream and wave even if they don’t. One of the plainest but most noisily welcomed entrants to the parade is the bus holding members of Manzamigos, who throw out about 70 kilos of candy en route to the waiting children who know what to expect. The music is loud to louder and dancing continues for the 3 or 4 hours that the parade takes to arrive at the final destination. Where do they get that energy???

The parade last year was cancelled officially due to the economy but the grapevine said because the beautiful “girls” were copying Manzamigos but throwing out condoms instead of candy! This year the Parade will be back on February 16th 2010 and the mad scramble to find sufficient candy is now on!

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