To kick off its 40th anniversary season of SF Carnaval events, different venues across the city will host 19 free Mardis Gras Fat Tuesday celebrations on Tuesday, February 13.

These Fat Tuesday events are the pre-parties a few months prior to the annual two–day festival and grand parade that takes place in San Francisco’s Mission District over Memorial Day weekend. The festival this year runs May 26-27 culminating in the parade on Sunday.

Parties are free and open to the public. Guests are encouraged to wear costumes, masks, and beads to celebrate the holiday. Participating venues include Blondie’s Bar, Pop’s Bar, Make-Out Room, Latin American Club, Bissap Baobab, and Zoe’s Bar and Restaurant.

Enjoy live samba drummers, dancers winding through the party, and lively music ranging from salsa and soca to cumbia and rumba. A percentage of sales at each event venue will go to support Carnaval San Francisco-CANA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that cultivates and celebrates the diverse Latin American and Caribbean roots of the Mission District and the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Donations are welcome and can be made on the site or on the the day of the event.

On Fat Tuesday, there are also four additional venues selling tickets to enter for a dance class. Visit the websites for the Elbo Room, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Dance Mission Theatre, ABADÁ-Capoeira San Francisco for more information.

Carnaval is an annual Brazilian festival held between the Friday afternoon (51 days before Easter) and Ash Wednesday at noon, which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty-day period before Easter. Mardis Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” refers to events of the Carnival celebrations on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras reflects the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.

Carnaval is Brazil’s most famous holiday and while not observed nationally throughout the United States, a number of traditionally ethnic French cities and regions like New Orleans have notable celebrations. San Francisco and its rich Latino culture have embraced Carnaval for the past four decades.