The carnival that is Mardi Gras... the days just before we enter our annual period of relative hibernation... the perfect excuse to go nuts and eat food just as rich and as fatty as you could possibly want... is upon us again.

The festival will be celebrated on Feb. 20 (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday.

Just so we're clear... Mardi Gras is also known as Fat Tuesday and just as much as it is celebrated with food, it is also marked with colours, light and music. It also signals the end of the carnival season.

For the more spiritually inclined among us, Ash Wednesday also symbolises the beginning of the 40 days (the period of Lent) Jesus spent praying and fasting in the desert, before his crucifixion. It ends on Easter.

The celebrations have, of course, already kick-started across the world.

In Germany, Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) is the carnival celebrated before Ash Wednesday and is similar to Fat Tuesday. In New Orleans, the Mardi Gras festival is very popular and this year's celebrations have already begun, with carnival parades and music making it a grand affair. This particular carnival ends on Feb. 21.

Check out some photos of celebrations at the Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans...

Members of the Muff-A-Lotta's performance troupe dance with pizza pans during the Orpheus Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana February 20, 2012.REUTERS/Lee Celano
A couple costumed in horse masks dance on Bourbon Street as part of the Mardi Gras celebration in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LouisianaREUTERS/Lee Celano
Members of the Sirens of New Orleans performance troupe dance in the Orpheus Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, LouisianaREUTERS/Lee Celano
Singer Cyndi Lauper throws beads to spectators during the Orpheus Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, LouisianaREUTERS/Lee Celano
A participant dressed as a baby doll dances to the Treme Brass band during the Red Beans and Rice Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, LouisianaREUTERS/Lee Celano