Carnaval marks a period of festivity prior to the beginning of Lent. Lent was, and for some still is, a 40-day period of solemnity and fasting with the removal of meat from the diet being a key feature. You can see the word carne (meat) in Carnaval; traditionally, this was the last chance to eat meat before the Lenten fast. Today, Carnaval often resembles a lively, multi-day party.
Falling in either February or March, Carnaval is typically celebrated during the five days that precede Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In some countries, Carnaval lasts longer, overlapping other local celebrations. In many regions, traditions such as throwing water and eggs can start over a month before the actual holiday. The planning for the next year’s parades, parties, and dance groups often starts as soon as the current Carnaval ends!