Carnival celebrations, held before Lent, the period leading up to Easter. It has a religious origin and features traditions drawn from the pre-Christian festivals Bacanales and Saturnales of ancient Rome. The frenzy, the humor, the parodies and the jubilation invade the streets of the cities and towns of Spain. There are two cities that must be mentioned when talking about Carnival festivals in Spain, due to its originality, beauty and spectacularity, whose worldwide fame is well known. They are Cadiz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife festivals.

It was born in the 15th century. During this century the carnival was heavily influenced by the Genovese traders that settled in the city whilst they  were looking for an ideal place to form part of a trade route from Africa to Europe. People who were homesick for their places of birth introduced masks, confetti and sweet dishes to the carnival. In the 16th century the carnival was transformed into a somewhat subversive festival: the recently appointed King Carlos V had forbidden the use   of masks in 1523. However, the authorities in Cadiz did what they could to try and get them to be allowed. Furthermore, in 1776 the authorities were thinking of abolishing the festivity due to the ‘excesses’ but they continued celebrating. Even after the War of Independence King Fernando VII tried put to a stop to the custom, but his efforts were in vain, as citizens of Cadiz used the situation to their advantage and converted masquerade balls, proclamations and songs into a reaffirmation of their spirit of resistance. From 1937 until 1947, the Cadiz carnival was formally banned by authorities of the Franco regime. When Spain became a democratic country, the  first Carnival festival was celebrated in freedom. This festival is not only still enormously successful in Cadiz, but also throughout Andalusia,  where the festival’s music competitions are televised live each  year.

On the other hand carnival in Tenerife is a reflection of the cultural link in the Canary Islands that bridges America and Europe. The Tenerife Carnival festival was declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest. This is one of the most important carnival festivals in the world;  having been named in 2000 the Carnival Capital of the World. Tenerife Carnival festival date back to the 17th century when the first Spanish settlements were established there. The festival has been celebrated ever since, and was known during Franco’s dictatorship by the euphemistic name Winter Festival.

This festival is an exhilarating festival celebrated in numerous places all over Spain. The streets in towns and cities all over Spain are filled with partying, humour, parodies and a general atmosphere of fun and high spirit. The carnivals are particularly worth experiencing for their originality, beauty and their spectacular displays which are deservedly famous all over the world.
No matter where you are in Spain, you can reach out and touch the Carnival spirit and let it touch you in return!

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