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Lesson Transcript

In French, it’s Carnaval.
If you like dressing up, this holiday is for you! Between February and March, you can find a holiday that is really enjoyed by French people. It lets them parade around in costumes and eat different desserts. This holiday has two names. It’s called Carnaval or Mardi Gras.
In this lesson, you’re going to learn why and how French people celebrate this holiday.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
What pastries, or pâtisseries, do French people make and eat for Carnival?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Carnival dates back to Ancient Rome, or Rome Antique, when great festivals celebrated the renewal of nature. After the French were Christianized, they continued to celebrate the end of the winter with the holiday of Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is the beginning of the Easter season, which is a meaningful time in the Christian calendar. It comes before Lent, which is a forty-day fast in memory of Jesus’s retreat into the desert. Lent begins on a Wednesday, and the preceding Tuesday is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. It’s called Fat Tuesday because it’s the last day you can eat fat!
On this day, French people like to dress up! The tradition goes back to the Middle Ages, or Moyen ge, when costumes let people switch roles. Poor people would dress like kings, men would dress like women, and so on. These days, all French children go to school dressed up on the day of Carnival. Even some high school students show up in costumes! Parades with floats and costumed participants are also organized in many cities.
Nowadays, the most famous Carnival in France is in the city of Nice. It’s called Carnaval de Nice and it has existed since the Middle Ages.
The Carnival in Nice takes place every winter in the month of February for two weeks. Every year, a new theme is chosen for the event. The parades are made up of twenty floats.
There is also a flower competition, or bataille de fleurs, where floats of flowers compete to be judged the most beautiful. They are decorated with fresh flowers picked during the night. The parade begins the next morning, and costumed participants throw handfuls of flowers to the spectators.
For five centuries, the Carnival in Paris was one of the biggest in the world. In 1914, however, the tradition stopped because of the war and was forgotten. But in 1998 it started up again, and has been a success ever since.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
Do you know what pastries French people make and eat for Carnival?
For Carnival, French people make rich and sweet desserts. Traditionally they would use their last eggs, because eggs are forbidden during Lent. Carnival treats are therefore made from eggs, or in French,
oeufs, and include donuts or beignets, sweet fritters or bugnes, and deep-fried treats called fritures.
How was this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Is there a Carnival in your country? How do you celebrate it?
Please leave a comment telling us at FrenchPod101.com, and we’ll see you next time!