Carpe Diem: Carnival

How to join in the drunken, lusty, Church-sanctioned excess


| March-April 2000



March 7: The carnival festivities that erupt in the last days before Lent all over the Christian world allow people to indulge their natural desires for excess. The Catholic Church has even tolerated the once-a-year drunken, lusty, rule-bending proceedings, according to Mardi Gras historian Robert Tallent, because “the church conceded that a period of foolishness and folly was necessary to the happiness of man.”

Yet Carnival celebrates the light as well as the dark sides of our souls. In Trinidad the raucous festivities begin with partygoers boasting of their brilliance, beauty, and sexual prowess, often to the hard-driving beat of soca music, but end with an affirmation of community as people wander the streets in groups shouting, “All ah we is one.”

Take advantage of both aspects of this centuries-old excuse for a party. Encourage guests to dress outrageously, play hot soca or New Orleans music, roll up the carpets, hand out masks, stay up way past bedtime, take at least one risk, and by evening’s end, make sure everyone in attendance knows how important they are to you.