The FECC World Carnival
City Congress – from 2008 Ploermel, France to the 29th 2009
With a spectacle
of color, smiles, festivities and upbeat music, carnivals can be
quickly dismissed as a lavish celebration not to be taken seriously.
After all, it is very easy to look at the flamboyant masquerades,
circus atmosphere and public street parties and simply think
carnivals are dedicated solely for merry-making.
fun –– no question about it. However, their significance goes beyond
plain entertainment. More than anything, carnivals are living
monuments to the historical heritage of a country. They signify the
blood, sweat and tears offered by a people to secure their own
distinct cultural identity. As President Henk Van der Kroon of the
Federation of European Carnival
Cities (FECC) put it, there is nothing trivial about these
If there is
anyone who can speak about carnivals, it has to be President Van der
Kroon. He has dedicated his whole life for this advocacy, believing
that carnivals are the most potent ambassadors of good will, culture
and peace. He was very instrumental in the creation of the FECC in
1980 and has been its President since day one.
As of 2009, the
FECC has over 500 members representing Carnival organizations from
52 countries. It is
organization’s goal to inspire discussion and reflection of the
various ways carnivals are celebrated all over the globe. The FECC
diversity, above all.
The efforts of
the FECC culminate in an annual international assembly: the World
Carnival City Congress. This week-long convention has been
celebrated in mid-May or mid-June without fail since the first
convention in Greece in 1981 (the
President Henk turned the World Carnival City Congress into a major
peace initiative when it was conducted in
Sousse, Tunisia. This move
was very historic in its cultural significance as it was the first
visit of the FECC in an African and Arab country. President Henk was
optimistic that this was a sign of brighter things to come between
the cultures of Europe and the Middle East.
patronage of His Excellency President Ben Ali, the Sousse, Tunisia
World Carnival City Congress from April 21 to 29, 2007 was
a huge success with more than 2,000 participants from different
backgrounds, religions and cultures. After the
week-long festivities, Tunisia
turned over the World Carnival City Congress to Ploermel, France
for the year 2008.
Ploermel is a
community city in France under the county of Moribund and the
Brittany. 2008 marked
time that the World Carnival City Congress was held in France.
This is an irony given the fact that the carnival tradition has its
beginnings deeply rooted in France.
from pagan feasts. However, it is during the rise of the Roman
Catholic Empire in the Middle Ages when these festivals were
incorporated in religious festivities. During the Dark Ages, the
fasting of Lent was strictly observed. Thus European Catholic
countries gave themselves a chance to indulge in food, festivities
and merry-making before fasting. The term carnival was derived from
the Latin phrase carnem levare which means “to put away
The carnival tradition flourished in France during the Middle Ages.
The Mardi Gras carnival became entrenched into public consciousness
as they provided an escape for the harsh conditions brought about by
war, feudalism and the plague. Peasants used the masquerades of
carnivals as fronts for their mass protests and often ended in
bloodbath as other masked government officers would foil their
plans. The French elite also conducted grand masked balls in their
royal court during the emergence of the age of Renaissance.
When France, along with other European powers Spain and Portugal,
went on their exploration spree particularly in the region of the
Americas, they brought the carnival tradition to the New World.
During that time, West African slaves were allowed to carry on with
their tradition of drumming and dance. In time, a fusion of carnival
influences ensued. When slavery was abolished, these carnival
celebrations became a symbol of the freedom of the slaves.
France has an excellent collection of annual carnivals to celebrate
its cultural and historical heritage. The carnivals of
Dunkerque, Granville, Biarnés and
Nice are eagerly awaited during the pre-Lent months of January
to March. However, the flagship carnival of France still remains in
Paris. For many centuries, the
Carnaval of Paris is considered one of the most important
celebrations in the world. Its main attraction is Pimprenelle, a
Limousine breed cow.
The 2008 Ploermel World Carnival City Congress in France from May 24
to June 1, 2008 was a rousing success highlighted by the
Carnival City Summit and
the Carnival Parade. Ploermel is famous in mythologies for its
proximity to the enchanted
Paimpont forest where the wizard Merlin was supposed to live.
After offering a tribute to the humble beginnings of the carnival
tradition in Ploermel, France, President Henk and the FECC set their
sights to the future by declaring the country of Montenegro – the
pearl of the Mediterranean – as the latest stop of the 29th
World Carnival Congress in 2009. As one of the newest attractions in
the tourist map, the country of Montenegro shall provide a spectacle
to the world’s premier carnival cities and organizations through its
two host cities Kotor and Budva from May 23-31, 2009.
Since Montenegro achieved independence in 2006, its tourism has
depended primarily on the coastal city of Budva. With its panoramic
landscapes and picturesque beaches, Budva has been described as the
Miami.” Now a vibrant tourism hotspot, Budva has always been a
favorite vacation destination for celebrities, movie stars and even
royalties. Prince Charles and Princess Diana once planned their
honeymoon here in Budva until it was discovered by the media.
Beyond surreal sceneries, Montenegro has a rich historical heritage
which is best exhibited by the city of
Kotor. Now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kotor
prides itself with its mighty brick walls and its intricate streets
and alleys. Not to be outdone though, the city has the Bay of Kotor
and the spiritual sanctuary of Mount Lovcen.
The People of Montenegro look up to the
Philerimos for divine providence. Most of their carnivals such
as the International Summer
Carnival of Kotor and the Bokeljska Noc are religious
festivities done in honor of the Qeovtoko Filevremou (The
Mother of God of Philerimos). Religious lore has it that Saint Luke
himself painted the image of the Lady of Philerimos in Jerusalem and
brought it to Rhodes in the year 2000.
The FECC Foresight
The Federation of European Carnival Cities (FECC) is resolute in
their belief that carnivals have the ability to spread harmony among
countries. This is why they have more plans in place after this
year’s Kotor-Budva, Montenegro World Carnival Congress.
Cartagena, Spain has been tapped as the 2010 host while
Vrnjacaka Banka, Serbia will do the honor in 2011.
Aruba will take center stage in 2012
The FECC believes that the world should have no time for war – just
the next carnival. As President Henk beautifully said “if ideologies
fail to create a better world, the cultural and the human sense can
bring people closer and push away conflicts between civilization and