Carnival is an old Italian winter festival that was spread around the world with the Roman Catholic religion in the Colonial Period.
It is a reversal ritual where social roles and morals are more relaxed. This reversal is related to the seasons. In the northern hemisphere, summer is a busy work time, but winter is quieter. This is even evident in the Spanish language. “Invierno”, Spanish for “winter” is obviously related to inversion.
There can be a lot of sex during Carnival. That also makes sense in the context of agrarian cultures. Pregnancies begun in February or March would produce births in November or December. That gave mothers more time to spend with their new babies.
During the Colonial Period, Carnival might be the only time Africans were allowed to celebrate their traditions. That made it a cherished mix of European, African and local traditions.
In Latin countries, Carnival is traditionally celebrated before Ash Wednesday and Lent. In countries where Great Britain was the last colonizer, it is celebrated at other times of the year.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the inspiration for New York City’s Labor Day Carnival and established carnival traditions now practiced around the world.
Many small towns across the Hispanic world have patron saint festivals (fiestas patronales) which are local carnivals. These happen all year long around the saint’s feast day. In Puerto Rico, there are several fiestas patronales every week. They are really magical.