Carnival is a season of winter partying. In Poland it starts on 6 January (Epiphany holiday) and ends on Shrove Tuesday (ostatki, śledzik) which is just before the start of Lent preceding Easter.
The name probably comes from Latin carne vale – “farewell to meat”, but other sources claim the origin from Roman carrus navalis, which was a vehicle in the shape of a ship taking part in a festival held in memorial of Isis and later Dionysus.
The most famous carnival celebrations are organized in Rio de Janeiro and Venice, crowds of tourists come also to Notting Hill Carnival in London and to North Rhine-Wesphalia in Germany.
Polish tradition of carnival was initiated by the Sarmatian Nobility. In past it was called zapusty, that was the time of revelry, dancing and abundant and fat feasts. Among upper classe organizing kulig was very popular. Kulig is a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the countryside, the ride used to be carefully arranged, participants visited one manor house after another feasting in each of them. Old Polish traditions can be still observed in Kaszuby, where young generation celebrates together with elderly.
Fat meals, such as potato pancakes, blini, doughnuts and faworki (chrust), more often reign on the tables. People eat and drink a lot to indulge their appetite before Lent.
In the XVI century also Gdańsk became known for its elegant carnival balls organized in the Artus Court. Currently balls are held as well and they offer more than just a dancing party, very popular are masquerades and other events including dressing-up. Carnival celebrations cannot take place without excellent and various food and drinks. Restaurants offer menus with sophisticates snacks and starters but traditional Polish meals usually also occur.
In January we especially recommend caramelized cod marinated in ginger and Halibut fillet with chervil risotto.
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