Carnaval de Paris 2014
On Sunday, March 2nd, as the world prepared to watch one of the most anticipated nights on television, the Oscars. I was preparing my fairy wings to frolic through the streets of Paris in one the cities bucketlist events, Carnaval de Paris.
The first hint I received that Carnaval de Paris existed was by my brother-in-law. Overwhelmed with excitement, I asked others around school and in Paris about the traditions but majority looked at me as if I asked them where I could find a tiger with a hat on, no idea. Many would think that since New Orleans, which hosts the biggest carnaval in the States, has French roots the pre-lenten celebration would be bigger and better. However, as everything in Paris has to model everything French, so does Carnaval.
Carnaval de Paris has a history dating all the way back to 1411. Originally, the festivities started the day after the epiphany lasting until Lent. Though as the centuries passed, somehow Carnaval de Paris got lost in translation around 1952 , taking a 45 year hibernation. In 1997 Carnaval de Paris peeked its head back out and has been gracefully making it’s come back ever since.
As I desperately want to blend in as a “local” Parisian, which involved experiencing the hidden treasures that most tourists would never come across. It was no secret to those who know me, that I seek out the most epic celebrations. I had yet to miss some form of Carnaval/Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S, which stocked me with a closet full of masks, different colored boas and an unnecessary amount of beads.
Moving to Europe I decided to bring some emergency costume gear should the situation arise and of course, it did quickly. So, I gathered my international crew from my French language school and headed down to the starting point of the festivities at Gambetta metro stop.
My school hosts students from all over the world. This made me assume Carnaval de Paris was already in the know. Though as I mentioned it to my group of friends there was a look of disbelief that it actually existed. I felt as a true insider as I organized our group to start our celebrations in 2014 theme of “fairies and trolls”.
We looked around to begin our journey around the designated 2pm starting time but there didn’t seem to be too much organization of when it was actually commencing. We eventually saw Jesus and the Devil start walking over to where we heard music playing and drums banging.
We then saw the aisle of colorful marching bands, hispanic dancers and what I would call , “a large, red toilet paper crab” dance around Gambetta circle. The”King and Queen” of Carnaval slowly drove in their convertible and we followed, moving our feet to the music of the marching bands and popped open some bubbly on the streets.
We continued to dance and watch the bands pass by but abruptly, the line seemed to finish. So, we followed what we assumed was the last line of the drumline, down the middle of the street. I thought we were following suit of what other local Parisians were doing but as we were blinded by Asian tourists camera flashes, I realized, wait, we really are in the parade, these people think we are part of the parade and I love it!
My friends and I could not stop smiling as we were having the time of our lives. We felt very free and a bit proud of our unexpected parade appearance, as there was limited police patrolling, guard rails and no one telling us, “no”.
We continued to followed the last line of drummers for the next few hours, taking beverage breaks as needed and watching others, babies to grandparents, join in the festivities.
The parade continued through Belleville weaving through the city to a grand finale at Republique. Everyone seemed to just do as they like in this parade. You joined in when you felt like it, you danced when you wanted and you just lived life because that’s what you do here in Paris.
As nighttime fell on the city, the beat continued and so did the dancing. I could not get my feet to stop moving and beats out of my head for the rest of the evening. This year’s Carnaval was the true sign of how Parisians get their moment to be a bit more free. If you are going to be visiting or starting your journey in Paris around Lent, this is a must “participate” on the list. I look forward to seeing next year’s Carnaval de Paris, as it continues its reincarnation, it will only get bigger and better.
Here’s the link for 2015’s Carnaval de Paris, www.carnaval-paris.org/