A carnival float displays figures depicting the novel coronavirus and “the carnival virus 2021” during a media preview, as the traditional “Rosenmontag” (Rose Monday) parade has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Duesseldorf, Germany February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

THE NEUTRAL ZONE: DEEP DIVE

Last year, revelers ate, drank, and paraded down streets of cities famous for their annual Carnival celebrations. Whether called by the name of Carnival, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, partiers couldn’t know then that it would be one of the final holidays celebrated in the “before times,” or that celebrations would be canceled a year later.

New Orleans’ citywide party in late February 2020 was blamed for the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Louisiana, one of the earliest and largest hotspots in the U.S. The city’s muted celebrations were almost a blessing for would-be partiers as the region reached freezing temperatures accompanied with warnings of frozen pipes and busted water mains. New Orleans enacted tighter coronavirus restrictions Friday, closing all bars in the city for five days and shutting down all liquor sales in the French Quarter. Bars replaced their traditional Mardi Gras flags with white ones, marking a surrender to the citywide lockdown even though business owners already purchased food and drinks before the last-minute announcement.

The city considered canceling Mardi Gras as early as April 2020 amid the first surge of coronavirus cases. In October, Mayor Latoya Cantrell promised that Carnival krewes that don’t carry out their parades this year would not lose their place in the city’s parade order. 

In a city known for its glittering Mardi Gras parades, residents couldn’t do without a grand display, even among restrictions. To maintain social distancing and tradition hand in hand, residents created flashy “house floats” in the same grandeur as pre-pandemic celebrations.

Rio de Janeiro’s iconic celebration was canceled for the first time in more than 100 years, leaving the city’s streets starkly quiet. While the typical party spots were used as vaccination sites, local samba schools moved the dance parties online and vowed to return louder than ever in 2022. With in-person Carnival celebrations in Brazil canceled, street vendors will miss out on revenues from what is for many the biggest payday of the year, prompting a Brazilian beverage company to launch an aid program for their partner vendors during the festival.

Parade organizers in Cologne, Germany’s city best known for its Carnival celebrations, shrunk down the annual Rose Monday parade through Old Town to a puppet size and aired the miniature parade on TV. Organizers in Düsseldorf also altered their Rose Monday parade, dispatching eight political caricature floats on undisclosed routes to prevent crowds from gathering. Multiple drive-in concerts were organized in the region around Cologne to keep the music playing as Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker called for residents to stay home and wait for next year.

Venice, Italy, is known for its grandiose Carnival celebrations, but tourism is down and gondolas are docked amid travel restrictions between regions, keeping the celebrations local. A local artisan shop owner told the Associated Press that Carnival masks serve “to protect, to reveal, and also to guarantee anonymity,” but noted that now, “we are not able to experience the mask in this way, and we are forced to wear these masks that in some way block the liberation, the freedom, of our so-called senses.”

Gamers, regardless of their location, can celebrate virtually on the pandemic-era favorite “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” as the peacock Pavé visits islands to mark Festivale, the game’s holiday based on Carnival.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

How Carnival, Mardi Gras Thrive During a Pandemic – Rutgers Today – 2/11/2021
By turning houses into stationary floats and releasing music on time while delaying the parades, people across the Americas and the Caribbean who celebrate Carnival and Mardi Gras are preparing to keep the festivals alive during the pandemic. Kim D. Butler, a Rutgers University-New Brunswick scholar of history and Africana studies, reflects on the meaning of the festivals, their relationship to the African diaspora, and how they will survive while the world fights COVID-19.

The year the music stopped – BBC News – 2/15/2021
New Orleans is a city built on tourism and live music events. With Mardi Gras parades cancelled and live music venues still closed after 10 months, how much longer can its musicians survive?

Pandemic Mardi Gras Means Less Trash, Finally – WWNO – 2/15/2021
After Mardi Gras in 2019, garbage trucks collected 1,300 tons of trash, or about 2.6 million pounds, when the revelry was over. In the past, the city has even measured the success of Mardi Gras by the amount of trash it picked up. […] They say it’s not only bad for the environment — a lot of those plastic beads, trinkets and trash end up in landfills — but also bad for drainage, because much of it gets stuck in the city’s storm drains.

Venice Carnival in the Time of COVID Is Unlike Any Before It, but No One Wants to Repeat It – The Daily Beast – 2/16/2021
Normally, Carnival is a time when many Venetians head out of town due to the influx of tourists, but with travel between Italian regions prohibited and tourism from abroad at a standstill, Carnival this year is very local indeed and for some Venetians, it is the first time in years they have not skipped town. On the last Sunday of the Carnival season, St. Mark’s Square was full of locals. “It’s so odd to only hear Italian being spoken here,” a masked Venetian woman dressed as a courtesan told The Daily Beast. “I don’t know if I like it this way. It just doesn’t seem like Carnival.”

‘It’s all so cheerless’: Rio mourns loss of carnival’s noise and passion – The Guardian – 2/14/2021
Twelve months ago the troupe had hit one of its lowest ever ebbs: drowning in debt, riven by infighting and relegated to the third division of Rio’s carnival championship after coming bottom of its group. This month, as the annual festivities returned, its new directors were determined to bounce back. […] The coronavirus outbreak, which has killed nearly 240,000 Brazilians, has temporarily scuppered Ferreira’s fightback, forcing the cancellation of Rio’s official samba parades – which should have kicked off on Friday – for the first time since they started in 1932.

Coronavirus crashes Cologne Carnival – Politico – 2/16/2021
With coronavirus restrictions shuttering non-essential shops and banning large gatherings, Cologne’s famous carnival had to skip a beat this year for the first time since World War II. For many in the city, that’s been nothing short of disastrous. “I have had a 99 percent drop in sales,” said Belinda Krone, owner of the fancy dress shop Jeck Jewand, meaning “crazy clothing” in the local Kölsch dialect. Normally, she’d sell 600 costumes a year. This year, she sold just 20, forcing her to let go all of her employees.

With carnival canceled, sadness takes over Belgian town – Associated Press – 2/14/2021
It’s this time of the year when craftsmen put the finishing touches to the vibrant costumes, ostrich-feather hats and wax mask of performers known as Gilles. The whole town braces itself for the carnival festivities that have been labeled a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. […] “All the inhabitants in Binche live and take part in the carnival,” said Daniel Pourbaix, who heads the association for the protection of Binche folklore. “So when there is no carnival, everyone is sad.”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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