If there’s a festival I don’t get along with, it’s carnival. Before you call me a stick-in-the-mud, the main reason I don’t like the festival known here as Carnestoltes is due to a traumatic experience I’ll tell you about in a moment. Apart from that, I can think of other reasons why carnival doesn’t make the grade.
For starters, you never know when it’s happening. Christmas Day is December 25 every year; it couldn’t be clearer. But the date for carnival is slippery, changing each year according to the lunar calendar. Technically, carnival takes place seven weeks after the first full moon following the winter solstice. I mean, how is that any way to organise things?
Another grievance I have against carnival is also calendar-related, in that it takes place in the middle of winter. Carnival is above all an open-air festival, and most fancy dress - here’s where the classic gorilla costume comes into its own - is not made to keep you warm. When you’re shivering to death at midnight on the Sitges waterfront dressed as a caveman you can’t be blamed for having second thoughts about this carnival business.
As an aside, some places have postponed their carnival celebrations due to the health crisis. Terrassa, for example, announced it will hold its carnival between June 2 and 8. If I was them, I’d leave it there - a carnival held in the summer might help bring me back on board.
Carnival is also a bit of a nightmare when you have small children. Obviously kids love dressing up, and you wouldn’t want to deprive them of the chance to be their favourite superhero. Yet when you’re a busy parent trying to get through the week, factoring in multiple fancy dress costumes and parties is often the last thing you need. I remember some years the school would ask my kids to dress up according to a different theme every day of the week. Thanks for that, teachers!
Despite these gripes, which I admit are trivial, the real reason I don’t like carnival is because, as I said earlier, I associate it with a trauma in my life. Here’s how it went down.
When I first came to live in Catalonia I was an English teacher, and my first responsibility in the school I worked at was to be the ’minister of fun’, in other words it was up to me to organise the school parties and celebrations. It’s a thankless task, and one of my first jobs was to organise the carnival celebration, the idea being that the teachers and students would dress up for class and meet up for a party afterwards.
My roommate at the time, who shall remain nameless, suggested we go as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. As she offered to make the costumes I agreed as I already had enough to do. I wish I’d thought it through. When the day came, she handed me my costume, which involved a little green miniskirt and tights. It was too late to find an alternative and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, as she’d put so much work into it. At least I wouldn’t be alone, as she would be in a leotard and tights as my fairy companion.
Well, I ended up very much alone, dressed as Peter Pan, in a miniskirt and tights, and with a red feather in my little green cap. My roommate chickened out after I’d already left for school dressed as ’The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’, and she justified her betrayal saying her costume was too revealing. Oh, do you think so! To make matters worse, the efforts by the rest of the staff were nothing short of pathetic. There was the odd token cowboy hat or burglar’s mask but almost no one had gone the whole hog as they had promised, and they certainly didn’t have to spend the rest of the evening in tights, serving as the butt of the joke. I’ve never liked carnival since.