Carnival (see other spellings and names) is a Western Christian festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent. The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide (or Pre-Lent). Carnival typically involves a public celebration and/or parade combining some elements of a circus, masks, and a public street party. People wear masks and costumes during many such celebrations, allowing them to lose their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity. Excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods proscribed during Lent is extremely common. Other common features of carnival include mock battles such as food fights; social satire and mockery of authorities; the grotesque body displaying exaggerated features, especially large noses, bellies, mouths, and phalli, or elements of animal bodies; abusive language and degrading acts; depictions of disease and gleeful death; and a general reversal of everyday rules and norms.
The term Carnival is traditionally used in areas with a large Catholic presence. However, the Philippines, a predominantly Roman Catholic country, does not celebrate Carnival anymore since the dissolution of the Manila Carnival after 1939, the last carnival in the country. In historically Lutheran countries, the celebration is known as Fastelavn, and in areas with a high concentration of Anglicans and Methodists, pre-Lenten celebrations, along with penitential observances, occur on Shrove Tuesday. In Eastern Orthodox nations, Maslenitsa is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent. In German-speaking Europe and the Netherlands, the Carnival season traditionally opens on 11/11 (often at 11:11 a.m.). This dates back to celebrations before the Advent season or with harvest celebrations of St. Martin's Day.
Rio de Janeiro's carnival is considered the world's largest, hosting approximately two million participants per day. In 2004, Rio's carnival attracted a record 400,000 foreign visitors.