Carnival season kicks off on Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as ‘Fat Tuesday'. Traditionally this is last day of feasting that signifies the beginning of Lent in the Christian religious calendar. It's also the day when, Christian or not, thousands of us stuff ourselves full of pancakes until we can't move (or throw up –whichever comes first).
Carnivals, as you'll know if you've ever been to one, are basically big raves where people wear crazy fancy dress costumes - the largest and most famous being the one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nowadays religion doesn't tend to determine who parties and who doesn't. Everyone's invited, though the carnival season still tends to follow the Christian calendar, winding up once Ash Wednesday arrives 46 days before Easter (have we lost you yet?)
In Europe there are some pretty major carnivals that happen every year. Possibly the coolest one happens in Venice, where everyone puts on the most spectacularly awesome masks and costumes, then parades around St Marks Square being unrecognizable (quite handy if you're skiving off work or having an affair). For argument's sake, if you rocked up to the Venice Carnival in a much less elaborate morphsuit, no one would recognise you either but you could look a bit weird.
There's always an option to create your own little slice of Venice carnival action at home if you're especially inspired by the masquerade theme. Closer to home, the Notting Hill Carnival takes place in London at the end of August. Outside the traditional Carnival season, it still promises a weekend packed with colourful parades, amazing street food and really great music nevertheless. There's a seriously good vibe on the streets and colour is the only thing that's obligatory dress code. So if you plan to get dressed up and involved, just think rainbow.
Our pick of the TOP FIVE Best Carnivals you MUST let loose and dance at before you die…
Experience this world-famous heady mix of heat, bare flesh and samba.
Venice Carnival, Italy
A feast for the eyes. Elegant, extravagant and slightly bizarre.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans USA
Lots of body part flashing, chucking of sweets and drinking of rum (pack your Alka Seltzer).
Notting Hill Carnival, London
Celebrating London's vibrant Caribbean community with parades, big sound systems and all-you-can-eat jerk chicken.
Cologne Carnival, Germany
A seven-day merrymaking extravaganza. Also known as ‘the crazy days'. Which they are.