Folk etymologies state that the word, Carnival, comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means “farewell to meat”, signifying the approaching fast.
Traditionally a carnival feast was the last opportunity to eat well before the time of food shortage at the end of the winter during which one was limited to the minimum necessary food sources.
Generally the feast also applied to sexual desires, which were supposed to be suppressed during the following fasting. Before Lent began, all rich food and drink were consumed in what became a giant celebration that involved the whole community, and is thought to be the origin of Carnival. The Lenten period of the Liturgical calendar, the six weeks directly before Easter, was originally marked by fasting and other pious or penitential practices. During Lent, no parties or celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fat and sugar.
From Italy, Carnival traditions spread to Spain, Portugal and France and from France to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal it spread with colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America. In the United Kingdom, West Indian immigrants brought with them the traditions of Caribbean Carnival, however the Carnivals now celebrated at Notting Hill, London; Leeds, Yorkshire, and other places became divorced from their religious origin and became secular events that take place in the summer months.
Jamaica: Bacchanal, Jamaica’s carnival, is typically held around Easter. It is a cultural import from Trinidad & Tobago. The celebration starts with the opening of Mas Camp Launch. Preliminaries are followed up with a Beach Jouvert, Bacchanal Jouvert and end with a Road March. The costumes worn by the bands are vibrant and colorful, decorated with jewels and feathers. Both the masqueraders and spectators enjoy dancing parade to soca, reggae and dancehall.
• Lent: an annual season of fasting and asking forgiveness in preparation for Easter.
• Bacchanal: a wild party, often marked by heavy drinking.
• Soca: a mixture of soul and calypso typical Caribbean music.