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Ash Wednesday

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MARK OF FAITH
MARK OF FAITH: A Catholic man’s forehead was marked with ash for Ash Wednesday in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Jose Cabezas/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

LOOKING AFTER LOOTING
LOOKING AFTER LOOTING: A man peered into a closed shop after it was looted by people who were protesting against the cost of living on the island of Réunion Wednesday. (Grondin Emmanuel/Maxppp/Zuma Press)

GUN READY
GUN READY: An Afghan police officer patrolled in Kabul as people gathered for another day Wednesday to demonstrate against the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. At least seven people were killed and dozens injured in violent clashes in several cities. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

MONOCHROMATIC
MONOCHROMATIC: Carnival revelers performed at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro Tuesday. (Vanderlei Almeida/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

CENTRAL SPOT
CENTRAL SPOT: A farmer fed buffaloes at a farm in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday. (Arif Ali/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

NEW POINT OF VIEW
NEW POINT OF VIEW: Nepalese man Chandra Bahadur Dangi, 72 years old, flew to the capital, Katmandu, Wednesday. Guinness World Records representatives were going to measure Mr. Dangi, who claims to be the world’s shortest man at 22 inches tall. (Prakash Mathema/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

MANY MIRRORS
MANY MIRRORS: A man looked at mirrors displayed for sale outside a car-accessories shop in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Wednesday. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

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A last blast before the observance of Lent, Carnival has evolved in many parts of the world with Christian traditions to be the biggest party of the year. Traditions vary from country to country, and even from region to region, but most places celebrate with a parade filled with masks, music, and ecstatic revelers. The world's biggest party happens in Rio de Janeiro, where millions fill the streets as the parade enters the Sambadrome. Collected here are pictures of Carnival in many forms as celebrated in various parts of Europe, Latin America, and North America. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)
A performer from the Beija Flor samba school parades during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 20, 2012. Millions watched the sequin-clad samba dancers at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Carnival parade. (Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press)

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish bride Nechama Paarel Horowitz fulfils the Mitzvah tantz during her traditional Jewish wedding with Chananya Yom Tov Lipa, the great-grandson of the Rabbi of the Wiznitz Hasidic followers, in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv, Israel. The Mitzvah tantz, in which family members and honored rabbis are invited to dance [...]

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PASSPORT, PLEASE
PASSPORT, PLEASE: Bangladesh passports were returned to their owners in a tent camp in Tunisia, near the border with Libya Wednesday. (Jim Hollander/European Pressphoto Agency)

CHECKPOINT
CHECKPOINT: A U.S. Marine searched an Afghan woman during a patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Wednesday. (Adek Berry/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

SORTING PALM
SORTING PALM: A worker sorted oil palm fruits in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday. (Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters)

RIDING A WAVE
RIDING A WAVE: Kelly Slater of the U.S. won the Quicksilver Pro Gold Coast contest in Queensland, Australia, Wednesday. (Kirstin Scholtz/Association of Surfing Professionals via Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

LARGE HUMAN CROSS
LARGE HUMAN CROSS: University of Santo Tomas students and faculty formed a ‘Dominican cross’ in Manila as they observed Ash Wednesday. Organizers claimed to have more than 20,000 participants and attempted to break the Guinness record for such a cross. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)

CAR TOWER
CAR TOWER: New Volkswagen car models were stored at the Autostadt visitors’ attraction next to the auto maker’s plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, Wednesday. (Christian Charisius/Reuters)

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The spectacle of gaudy colors, outlandish floats, airborne beads, and extravagant costumes was not limited to the French Quarter of New Orleans Tuesday. Weeks of pre-Lent celebrations culminated into explosions of exhilarating events for "Fat Tuesday" and Carnival around the globe. Historians say the Mardi Gras tradition dates back to Roman times, when the newly converted Christians retained vestiges of their pagan festival "Lupercalia" as a period of celebration before the penance of Lent. That spirit ricochets today from the revelers of Carnival in Brazil to the flour-tossing sprites of Greece to the ebullient trombones of Bourbon Street. -- Lloyd Young (43 photos total)
A Grande Rio samba school dancer performs while parading through the Sambadrome during carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 8. (Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)

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