Sunday, March 2, 2014

Celebrating Carnival in Bordeaux, France-Les Carnaval des deux rives 2014!

Dancing - Antilles style
Hoping to keep the rain away!
It's that time of year - Carnaval!

It's actually one of the fun traditions that I have enjoyed celebrating here in France. Coming from New York State, Carnaval was not really celebrated-we read about it and friends who would go to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras (The last day of Carnival season).  But we had never really experienced it.  So what exactly is this Winter/Spring festival?

It actually dates back  hundreds of years ago when the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costumed festival right before the first day of Lent.  As Catholics are not suppose to eat meat during Lent, this festival was named "Carnevale" which means "to put away the meat".  As time passed, carnivals in Italy became famous and the tradition passed to all the Catholic Countries in Europe.  As the French, Spanish and Portuguese began to explore, settle and gain control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnival!

Here in Bordeaux, it is definitely celebrated - maybe not as crazy or extensive as other parts of Europe, but it's colorful and fun. A time to push away the winter grayness. This festival makes for a great excuse for a parade! At the maternelle (Pre-school) they often marked the holiday with a Carnaval parade of the students.  Always fun and bright - I loved the fact that the school would pick a theme and the teachers and students would make their own costumes!  You may remember reading about it in this post -HERE .

This year, we decided to go to Bordeaux and watch the Parade & the celebration in town - Les Carnaval des deux Rives.  This year's theme was celebrating China.  It was fun, colorful and even though there were tons - yes, thousands of people - a nice way to spend an afternoon.  This is also what I love about living here - the kids get to experience different cultural celebrations.  

It was also fun to see it how many children & families came dressed up to celebrate the occasion.  The festival organizers held several workshops ahead of time for groups & families to create masks, kites and hats to all wear during the festivities.  Many groups walked in the parade and others just joined the end to follow along.  One could really celebrate this holiday any way they wished!! 

We placed ourselves in front of Place de la Bourse (okay-so the photographer in me wanted the backdrop of my photos to be the beautiful historic buildings!) and waited.  The parade began at 2:15 pm from the center of Bordeaux and wound it's way out of town and then along the quai toward the Pont Pierre.  We were located mid-way on the parade route.  This seemed to also be the area where several groups joined the parade to only walk half the distance - which was a benefit for us as we got to see them prepare ahead of time.
Patiently (or sometimes, not so patiently) waiting for the parade

My youngest and myself
A group practicing and getting ready before joining the parade.
Loved the Chinese hats made from umbrellas
A costumed couple walked through town before the parade - many people asked them to stop for photos!
Finally -We could see the parade coming with the Bird kites and balloons.

Bordeaux celebrates the 50th anniversary of Diplomatic relations with China
Everyone having fun

Fun & bright! - Lots of Chinese Dragons
The head....
& the tail...
Loved the stunningly beautiful kites!  Amazing !

Groups danced and played music

Lots of confetti thrown
Fun colors
Loved this little guy who carried this dragon!
A more traditionally dressed - Carnaval couple
Up on stilts - Chinese style!
Loved this mechanical dragon - complete with smoke & a  loud Roar!
These cranes were stunning to watch as they "flew" through to music and smoky effect..Very graceful.
Complete with a Panda!
My girls threw confetti and also benefited from receiving it!
Another float celebrating Bordeaux's relations with China
These guys danced and swirled with their dragon!
The Dragon Dance
More colorful floats
Another float & the thousands of people!
People following the parade
We opted not to follow the parade across the Pont Pierre (The historical bridge crossing to the right side of the river) where they were finishing with the traditional Carnaval ceremony.  Looking at the paper this morning - I'm sort of glad we didn't - The bridge itself was full (and I mean FULL) of people tightly packed as they made their way to the other side.

It was nice to take our fond memories of this afternoon and head off for a snack in a warm restaurant!

Hope everyone enjoyed Carnaval - Bordeaux Style!!


  1. Some great pictures! It's brilliant to see how carnival is celebrated around the world. Even here in Brazil, where everyone thinks about the big Rio carnival, there is a lot of variation depending on where you are.

    1. Thank you for commenting - always nice to hear from readers. We have really enjoyed celebrating carnival here in France - lots of variations and it's also fun that the schools and smaller towns celebrate too. It really amazes me though, how little it's celebrated in the States...

  2. I found you through the FB group Multicultural Kids Blogs (I've just joined this afternoon!) and added my own post on carnival directly after yours so here I am reading about your experiences in Bordeaux. "My" carnival is Nice where we have a huge fĂȘte for 2.5 weeks of parades, light shows, fireworks etc. My family are big fans and go every year. It's interesting to see how it is over your way. Love your photos!

    1. Hi Phoebe - Thanks for commenting - so nice to hear from new readers. Glad to connect!! MKB is a great group! I loved your post about Nice - again, like you said - so interesting to see how it's celebrated in different parts of France.

  3. Looks like it really brightened up a grey day. You must have been in a quandry knowing what to take a photo of next!

    1. did brighten a cloudy day - but you are right - the colors were so fun!! Thank you for commenting - so nice to hear from readers - come back and visit again soon!

  4. Informative Post! Carnaval De Nice is the most joyous & amazing time of the year in France. I am heading France next month to explore 2020 Nice Festival France with my spouse & kids. Hoping having a great time!


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