It can be quite cool in Nice in February and a little depressing for the many Riviera locals who think 2 degrees a night is like living in the Canadian Tundra. Yes, the locals don’t deal with the cold weather very well. You can spot them a mile away – the sun is out, the temperature is 8 degrees and they’re dressed like an overweight Michelin man.
So for the sake of the locals, (and lets be honest, us as well) February is about the right time of the year to have a warming, crazy, colourful and fun filled festival to take away the winter blues. This grand affair is funded by the local Council and also involves all the schools in the area with tremendous costumes, floats and events including dance and music from modern to old style Provencal dancing and singing, held over 3 weeks.
The festival has grown and grown over the years to become the largest festival on the Riviera. It creates havoc and causes traffic chaos that blocks streets for weeks around the downtown area every February. But lets not be churlish – who cares about traffic congestion when you can be part of such an historical and fun event.
This carnival’s history dates back to the 13th century. It was a time of joyous merrymaking for the people of Nice that occurred just before the period of Lent. Excesses such as masked balls and farandoles* were allowed. The excesses were controlled after the 18th century by the “Abbes des Fours” (Fools Abbot) appointed by clergy for this purpose.
Later in the nineteenth century, people disguised themselves according to their preferences and also engaged in activities such as throwing plastic confetti, flowers and eggs at each other. The 20th century saw the encompassing of the straw and rag puppet into the parade fully enthroned on its float. Later, beautifully designed spectacular floats quite unlike any that had ever been seen in the carnival’s history were introduced.
Today the Carnival is characterized by three parades, the carnival parade, the flower parade and the parade of lights. The carnival parade has an ensemble of eighteen floats and many figurines created around the theme of the year. The figurines are made of traditional papier-mâché. Music and theatre groups from around the world offer entertainment to the scores of people who turn up. They perform an original production every year.
The flower parade consists of 16 floats elaborately designed using flowers locally grown in Riviera. It takes place at the sea front at Promenade des Anglia’s. Models in costumes throw flowers to crowds from the floats. The parade of lights takes place in place Massena. Here giant screens are set up to showcase entertainment and floats are lighted up making the evening glow.
This years carnival will take place from 13th to 28th February 2016, beginning with a flower parade on Saturday 13th February at 2.30 pm. The special two event rate is thirty-five pounds and caters for the flower parade and either the parade of lights or the carnival parade. Children under six years can enter free while those between six and twelve will have to part with ten pounds for reserved seating or five pounds for the entrance. Also, the handicapped and their accompanying person will part with ten pounds if they want reserved seats or five pounds for the standing area.
More information and bookings can be sought on this website ww.nicecarnaval.com. This event is always a fun-filled affair. And if you get bored easily you can have a laugh watching the locals dressed in 15 layers of clothing – because it’s cold, you know.
* A Farandole is lively Provençal dance in which the dancers join hands and wind in and out in a chain