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While Christian festivals such as Corpus Christi were church-sanctioned celebrations, Carnival was also a manifestation of European folk culture.

In the Christian tradition, the fasting is to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert, according to the New Testament, and also to reflect on Christian values.

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Many synods and councils attempted to set things "right".

Caesarius of Arles (470–542) protested around 500 CE in his sermons against the pagan practices.

However, this interpretation is not supported by philological evidence.

Other scholars argue for the origin from the Roman name for the festival of the Navigium Isidis ("ship of Isis"), where the image of Isis was carried to the seashore to bless the start of sailing season.

All the food that had survived the winter had to be eaten to assure that everyone was fed enough to survive until the coming spring would provide new food sources.

Tacitus wrote in his Germania: Germania 9.6: Ceterum nec cohibere parietibus deos neque in ullam humani oris speciem adsimulare ex magnitudine caelestium arbitrator – "The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance." Germania 40: mox vehiculum et vestis et, si credere velis, numen ipsum secreto lacu abluitur – "Afterwards the car, the vestments, and, if you like to believe it, the divinity herself, are purified in a secret lake." In many Christian sermons and texts, the example of a vessel is used to explain Christian doctrine: "the nave of the church of baptism", "the ship of Mary", etc.

Traditionally, a carnival feast was the last opportunity for common people to eat well, as there was typically a food shortage at the end of the winter as stores ran out.

Until spring produce was available, people were limited to the minimum necessary meals during this period.

It was a time for adult converts to prepare for baptism at Easter.

As with other Christian festivals such as Christmas, which was originally a pagan midwinter festival, the Christian church has found it easier to absorb the pagan Carnaval into its religious tradition than to eliminate it.

Winter was thought of as the reign of the winter spirits; these needed to be driven out in order for the summer to return.

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