Nice Carnival 2011 welcomes The King of the Mediterranean
Now that Christmas is over and done with for another year, the decorations have all been taken down and shoved in the back of the wardrobe ready for next December and your New Year's resolution to join the gym has probably already been forgotten about, you might be feeling a bit down. But not to worry, because one of the biggest events on the Côte d'Azur is only a few short weeks away and this years Carnival is sure to beat those winter blues.
The town of Nice has been hosting a winter carnival since the year 1294 and traditionally the carnival was seen as a last chance to eat, drink and make merry before the start of Lent and 40 days of fasting began. From 1294 up until 1872, the carnival was a festive whirl of balls, dances, masquerades and enormous battles carried out on the streets of Nice by masked revellers who threw flour, eggs and confetti at one another.
In 1873 Niçois Andriot Saetone organised the first ‘modern carnival' and also founded the ‘Comité des Fêtes'which still organises the Nice carnival today. He was also responsible for introducing the enormous floats which parade up and down the Promenade both day and night and providing the tiers of seats which line the Prom and Place Masséna for the spectators to watch the action close-up. In 1882 the first Carnival King, His Majesty «Triboulet» arrived in Nice pulled by a royal float and since then every year a King is crowned who reigns over the carnival for 2 weeks before being taken out to sea and burned on Mardi Gras Tuesday, much to the delight of the huge crowds who gather on the beaches to watch the accompanying fireworks.
Photograph © OTCN / M. Jolibois
The Nice carnival, which is the biggest in France, is also known throughout the world for its famous flower battles. The battles date back to 1876 and started out as a simple flower exchange, but have since developed into an enormous procession of 20 floats covered in locally grown mimosa, gerberas and lilies which parade through the streets. Girls from each float throw flowers to the crowd and over the course of the ‘battle' 80-100,000 flowers are showered over the spectators. If you've ever seen huge crowds walking along the Promenade with armfuls of flowers on a Saturday afternoon, you can be sure they've just participated in one of the infamous ‘Bataille de fleurs'.
Photograph courtesy of Peter Riley
This year's carnival theme is ‘The King of the Mediterranean' 2011 and promises to dazzle with floats based on the Mediterranean's geography, place in history, the role it plays for those who live in Nice, and the future preservation of this amazing natural resource.
There will be over 1,000 musicians and dancers from all over the world participating and there really is something for everybody with both daytime and night time processions plus of course the grand finale fireworks for Mardi Gras.
The carnival runs from the 18th February until the 8th March this year, so make sure you book your tickets early so nobody can rain on your parade!
Lead image © OTCN / M. Jolibois
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