a million faces on parade
hide your face and the world will never find you

This past weekend was carnaval. Actually, it started Wednesday night and ended yesterday, so really it was about a week long. I like carnaval because it breaks up that monotonous stretch between New Year’s (or Valentine’s Day, if you like), and Easter. Whereas in Chicago we struggle through the longest winter months without holidays, life here in Spain is just a neverending party.

I was actually expecting more festivities than there really were, but I was told that Santiago is not very big on carnaval celebrations. No matter, we still dressed up, masks and all, and headed out for several nights of reveling. It was like having Halloween twice a year (and you all know how much I love Halloween)! We stayed in Santiago, but many people headed out to nearby towns like Orense, Xinzo de Limia, and Lalin, where carnaval festivities are known worldwide. In these towns, EVERYONE dresses up. And we’re not talking store-bought George Bush masks or a little bit of face paint. No, we’re talking real feathers, leather outfits and masks, wooden carved ornaments, the whole deal. And these towns are serious about carnaval. If you’re caught without a costume, you could be accosted by handfuls of flour, honey, eggs, or even LIVE BITING ANTS. Yes, you thought that was just a Spanish urban legend, but it is fact true. There are carnaval “moderators” called las pantallas who run through the streets banging together balloons made of cow intestine, and throwing live ants at those not conforming to carnaval standards. THESE PEOPLE ARE CRAZY. Luckily, there’s none of that in Santiago. Instead, people set off firecrackers or throw silly string at you. I definitely prefer silly string to live biting ants.

Another tradition is the carnaval parade, or cabalgata. It was cold out yesterday, and the parade passed right down our street, so we leaned out of our windows to watch it from the comfort of our (heated) home. Normally, I think of parades as being one of two things: a celebration of the history/tradition of some holiday, or a representation of city businesses and establishments, or some combination of those two. This parade was none of the above. It included, among other things, a float of scnatily clad, Kylie Minogue-esque dancers followed directly by a float of popular cartoon characters from children’s shows. There were also chickens, checkers pieces, a dartboard, some race car drivers, some Trojan warriors, some Scotsmen, Charles and Camilla, two dead people in coffins, a priest in an afro wig and disco sunglasses, a Yahtzee game, some beach balls, a pig truck, men on stilts, jugglers, wolves, and an “Arab” jazz band supposedly headed by Bin Laden himself. It was the most random, rag-tag display of costuming I’ve ever seen, and we all thought briefly about joining in the parade and seeing how far we could get before someone would notice we weren’t supposed to be there.

We finished off our celebrations by making traditional Italian fried dough, a carnaval favorite. I was really looking forward to making or eating paczki, but they don’t exist here and no one but myself seems to remember having ever eaten them. Aren’t paczki a huge Fat Tuesday tradition in the Midwest, or am I just making this up?

Anyway, it was a good weekend and a short week, dampened only by the fact that Verena left. Details to follow, but for now, here are some pictures of the scandalous revelry Enjoy!


3 thoughts on “carnaval!

  1. punchki’s(check spelling) are probably what you are thinking of. I believe they are like fried dough with a jelly or creme filling. Kinda like really big jelly donuts. We had so many in my office yesterday it was horrible. I had three! I am so going to die from a heart attack!

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