If you're familiar with Carnival, then you know it's one of the most festive seasons of the year for some countries. And if you're not? Think Mardi Gras: an array of brilliant colors, upbeat music and huge street parades leading up to the religious holiday of Lent. But every reveler knows it wouldn't be Carnival if it weren't for the striking costumes that people spend weeks (even months) putting together. These costumes have feathers, glitter and some even glow in the dark — and we can't help but marvel at the extravagance of it all.
The huge seaside city of Rio deJaneiro holds the largest celebration of Carnival in the world. Huge parades led by samba schools debut dancers, singers, and drummers in a fantastic assortment of bright colors. And though it may seem like there is no method to this colorful costume madness, revelers wear the respective colors of the theme their samba school has chosen for the year.
Uruguayans work in pieces of musical theatre into their Carnival, so it's no surprise their costumes are meant to be thespian. All of the events take place in the capital of Montevideo, with Uruguayans really doing it big — their Carnival can last up to 40 days.
Colombians wear a barrage of costumes that mimic fictional and historical figures from Columbian folktales for their version of Carnival. Enjoying these festivities for over a century, the country holds the second largest Carnival parade in the world after Rio de Janeiro. In 2003, it was proclaimed by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Ecuador celebrates Carnival with a different flair, including costumes centered around the earth and their own traditional garb. During the events, it is common to douse family, friends and passerby with water. However, celebrations have been known to get out of hand, with some people throwing caution to the wind with car oil. Yikes!
Today, many Trinidadian revelers don costumes of feathers and sparkles in black, red and white — the colors of the country's flag, but their Carnival dates back to the late 1700s when French plantation owners organized masquerades and balls before the fasting of Lent.
The Carnival in Venice is famous for its ornate masks (some even lighting up), but these carousers don't just wear any old mask. Their are several distinct types — 10 with identifying names, so there are plenty to choose from.
In Martinique, each village elects a Queen and Junior Queen to be carried during the grand parade. Even grandmothers come out to compete, dressed in their finest traditional costumes of colorful, elaborate headdresses and skirts inspired by their Creole culture.
The main attraction of the carnival in Belgium are their clown-like performers known as Gilles. Making their appearance on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the first day of Lent, the Gilles wear vibrant uniforms, wax masks and wooden footwear.