Carnaval: What does Christianity have to do with it?

2007 Carnival at Pátio de São Pedro square, in Recife, Brazil (Wiki Photo)


Carnaval is about to begin in parts of Brazil and elsewhere:

Brazil’s carnival, which this year will take place February 8-12, is the largest and most famous in the world — and, given that, a major boon for the country’s economy. In Rio alone, close to a million tourists attended the 2012 celebration.

As thousands of tourists flock south for Brazil’s famous pre-Lenten celebration, samba schools give floats and costumes a final touch before unveiling their masterpieces on the ruas (streets) of Río from Feb. 9-12…Colombia’s coastal city of Barranquilla holds the second-largest Carnaval during the same dates as Brazil’s festivities, and New Orleans’ Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) will celebrate with floats and beads on Feb. 12.

Here are a couple of descriptions of previous related celebrations:

Carnival…five-day annual exaltation of music, booze and flesh…The rotund King Momo embodies Carnival, a raucous free-for-all where excesses are encouraged and the natural order of things is turned upside down: men dress as women…In addition to the elaborate two-day samba group parade and the high-dollar costumed balls where the rich spend a lot to wear very little in the most exclusive company, Rio’s free, open-to-all street Carnival is bigger than ever.

For as long as locals remember, the sight of people relieving themselves – and the stench of their steamy puddles – has been as much a part of Carnival as half-naked women, samba schools, drag queens, body paint, and drunk and sun-burned foreigners.

Booze, cross-dressing, and flesh exposure does not seem to fit with the Bible’s comments about modesty and avoiding drunkenness, but the party is generally expanding in popularity.

Notice that the Bible teaches against these activities:

18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation (Ephesians 5:18)

5 “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.  (Deuteronomy 22:5)

9…women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation  (1 Timothy 2:9).

Carnaval’s relationship to real Christianity is that real Christians should condemn it.

Here are three reports about the version of carnaval in Bolivia (the first was machine translated from Spanish):

He seized the carnival!

The Carnival was born of pagan festivals. In the Christian era is celebrated on the eve of Lent.

By Daniel Rojas Grove | Posted on February 18, 2012

Costumes. Extras. Masks. Fiesta. Rampage. These days, just before the Christian Lent, millions of people worldwide forget cares and worries jump to the streets and make their lives a carnival. Amid the bustle, drums, trumpets are the contemporary version of ancient pagan festivals like the Roman Saturnalia and Lupercalia.

Experts say the Carnival tradition dates back over 5000 years, the festivals held in honor of the Apis bull in Egypt.

In the world there are celebrations of Carnival in places as diverse as remote and Venice (Italy), Lucerne (Switzerland), Cologne (Germany) and this side of the world in New Orleans and Latin America in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Panama and Bolivia…

Carnival is so important that Unesco for its historical value and aesthetic beauty declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity those of Oruro, Bolivia, the Barranquilla, Colombia, that of Binche, in Belgium, the Makishi, Zambia , and the Drametze in Buthan.

Oruro is considered the folklore capital of Bolivia and its carnivals are the heritage since 2001. They originate in the Andean invocations to Pachamama (Mother Earth), Uncle Supay (devil) and the Virgen de la Candelaria (Virgin of the Tunnel).

Devil’s Carnival (La Diablada)
When: 19 – 23 Feb 2009 (annual), Where: Oruro
Every spring, Oruro goes into carnival mode. The costumes on show are phenomenal and include anything from llama herders to Amazonian Indians sporting feathered head-dresses. The combination of colour, outlandish masks, music, dance and fireworks is bound to leave you wide-eyed.
One of the highlights are the devil dancers, the tradition of which derives from a peculiar kind of devil worship. Oruro is a mining town and the locals, spending so much time underground, decided to adopt a god of the underworld. Christian tradition dictates that this must be the devil and the Oruro faithful thus adopted Satan, or Supay, as their god.
They would perform sacrifices to the devil on a regular basis to ensure their safety in the mines and the devil dancing in the carnival derives from their belief in Satan as their protector underground.
Festivals To Get You Going
FF, UK – Feb 18, 2009..

La Diablada – The Dance Of The Devil.

The 4km long procession takes place on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and features so many entertainers that it can actually last up to 20 hours. The whole debacle follows a brightly costumes San Miguel character, and behind him come the more famous devils and a whole host of other beings.

The chief devil, Lucifer, get’s treated to the best costume, obviously, and swans around in a velvet cape and ornate mask, naturally. The rest of the procession follows and is drenched in jewels and precious metals with offerings for the owner of the underground minerals, El Tio.

Festivals involving the devil like the above were not observed by early Christians. It is obviously a pagan celebration that many enjoy and that appears to be growing in popularity.

Of course, not only is carnival not in the Bible, neither are Ash Wednesday or Lent (they did not come until centuries after the original apostles died) as none of them are original practices of the true Church. Nor are any practices of the Continuing Church of God today.

Wikipedia states:

Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival. The Brazilian Carnaval is the longest celebration today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular events. These include the Carnevale of Venice, Italy, of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands; of Torres Vedras, Portugal; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rijeka, Croatia; Barranquilla, Colombia; and Trinidad and Tobago. In the United States, the famous Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, date back to French and Spanish colonial times…

An inspiration for the carnival traditionally was that it marked the last time for celebration and special foods before Lent. The Lenten period was marked by practices of fasting, restricted food, and pious practices. Traditionally, no parties were held and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, and in some cases, dairy, fats and sugar. The forty days of Lent serve to mark an annual time of turning to God and religious discipline.

While it is an integral part of the Christian calendar, parts of the carnival traditions likely reach back to pre-Christian times. The ancient Roman festivals of the Saturnalia and Bacchanalia may have been absorbed in the Italian Carnival. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek Dionysia and Oriental festivals. While medieval pageants and festivals such as Corpus Christi were church-sanctioned celebrations, carnival was also a manifestation of medieval folk culture. Many local carnival customs are based on local pre-Christian rituals, for example the elaborate rites involving masked figures in the Swabian-Alemannic carnival.

Yes, many Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and others will participate in the revelries associated with carnival. And many will also observe Lent.

Even though the practices associated with all of them have “pre-Christian origins,” are not endorsed in the Bible, and result in people not understanding God’s plan of salvation for them.

Perhaps those who profess Christ should follow His example and observe the same days that He did, such as Passover.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Mardi Gras: The Devil’s Carnival? Do you know that in Bolivia the carnival/Mardi Gras time is part of a celebration known as the Devil’s Carnival? Did Jesus celebrate Carnaval? Where did it come from?
Is Lent a Christian Holiday? When did it originate? What about Ash Wednesday? If you observe them, do you know why?
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants How the Living Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins?
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven? This article supplies some biblical answers.

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