Luton Carnival – A time to celebrate diversity

On Monday I attended the Luton carnival in the capacity of helping out a friend on one of the mini-stages. You can see photos at The event was advertised as one of the biggest in the UK.

Apart from the fact that it rained all day it was good to see the crowds line the streets to support the parade.

My DJ spot was for an hour and on departing I managed to get a glimpse of the very long parade that ran in parallel to the main park where both a fairground and music stages had been set-up.

The parade consisted of varied floats: Romans, Salsa, Hari-Rama Hari-Krishna chanters and stilts walkers. Despite the cold and rain both revelers and participants of the parade smiled and danced away. This I thought was a good example of a multi-cultural celebration. A time when people can be unite forgetting their differences from an ego perspective and instead recognizing that music and dance crosses boundaries.

I also wondered about the inspiration for the carnival. I was surprised to learn about its religious connection. Interestingly it is suggested that its origins link to the fact that during Lent, traditionally no parties may be held and many foods are forbidden. Lent serves to commemorate the ‘Passion of Jesus’. Maybe people want to have a celebration before their fasting.
Parts of the carnival traditions, however, likely reach back to pre-Christian times. The ancient Roman festival of the Saturnalia a probable origin of the Italian Carnival. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek and Oriental festivals. Many local carnival customs are also based on local pre-Christian rituals.

The origin of the name “carnival” is disputed. According to one theory, it comes from the Latin carrus navalis (“ship cart”), referring to a cart in a religious parade

Most of the islands in the Caribbean celebrate Carnival.

Until attending the one in Luton my only experience of knowing rather than attending a carnival was the famous Notting Hill one. Years ago the latter had been infamous for confrontation with the police. However, now it is a time for celebration for all communities and relations with the police are good – Every year without fail the media shows police officers joining in with the partying.

Although some of the original religious elements may now not be visible and for many it is a year long mission to practice and prepare their floats.

Carnivals aim is certainly interesting, probably morphing into a celebration of life.

Categories: 2008, Multiculturalism


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