In much of Eastern Europe, Carnival season begins on Twelfth Night or Epiphany, Jan. 6 (Three Kings Day), and lasts until Shrove Tuesday. It's a time for partying and revelry before the fasting of Lent begins.
In Poland, Karnawał (kahrr-NAH-vow) begins on Twelfth Night, better known as Three Kings Day (Trzech Króli). In days gone by, Karnawał was celebrated by the szlachta with balls and dances, and the kulig. The kulig was a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered countryside, which called for frequent stops from manor to manor for dancing, singing, hot mulled wine, known as grzaniec galicyjski or grzaniec wino, and a meal like hunter's stew, known as bigos, cooked over an open fire. Frequently, the guests stayed overnight and continued the merriment the following day at the next estate.
Today, many young people organize sleigh rides, but the norm is to celebrate Carnival with bar-hopping and night clubbing.
Today, many of the younger generation organize sleigh rides, but the norm is to content themselves with pub crawls and such. Still, the wintertime tradition of ingesting bracing liquids, hearty, comfort food and warming soups holds sway.
The last six days of Carnival are known as zapusty -- beginning on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek) when pączki (fried doughnuts) are eaten, and ending on Shrove Tuesday or Herring Day (Sledziówka), also known as Ostatki.
How Shrove Thursday and Shrove Tuesday are celebrated in Eastern Europe.