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It traditionally represents the time of year when the reign of the cold, grim winter spirits is over and these spirits are being driven out and expelled by the Carnaval rituals.
There is evidence that the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia may have been absorbed into the Italian carnival.
In recent years the feast usually starts on Saturday.
Also Friday evening (or at schools at Friday afternoon) and in some places Thursday (Ouwe Wijven) are considered the start of Carnaval, which makes it a six days' celebration.
Winter was thought of as the reign of the winter spirits that were to be driven out for the summer to return.
Carnaval can thus be regarded as a rite of passage from darkness to light, from winter to summer: a fertility celebration, the first spring festival of the new year.
While Christian festivals such as corpus christi were church-sanctioned celebrations, Carnaval was also a manifestation of European folk culture.
In those two months, several Catholic holidays were seized by the Catholic population as an outlet for their daily frustrations.
In many Christian sermons and texts, the example of a vessel used to explain Christian doctrine: "the nave of the church of baptism", "the ship of Mary", etc.
The first day of Carnaval is six weeks before Easter Sunday.
Carnaval officially begins on Sunday and lasts three days until the start of Ash Wednesday at midnight.