By Maria Antonia Lopes, Brazil Rafaela Reblin, Brazil Laura Franco, Brazil
What is Carnival?
The Carnival is celebrated in Brazil every year, 46 days before the Easter festival. The word “Carnival’ is derived from “carnelevare,”which means the removal of meat. The roots of the festival are believed to be in tradition of Roman Catholics when they abstained from meat and alcohol on certain days as a method to drive away bad things from their lives. Back then, followers of the Roman Catholic Church would indulge in a last day of dance, fun, alcohol and sex just before the start of the abstinence period of alcohol and other sins.
Although Carnival is celebrated in other cities throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro is considered the Carnival’s capital city. One of the best-known parties in the world, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is also the largest carnival celebration in the world. It’s filled with music, parades, drinking and people having fun. The carnival, a national holiday in Brazil, runs from Friday night to noon of the following Wednesday. That’s the official length, but many Brazilians turn it into a 10-day holiday. It brings
in about half a million foreign tourists each year.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
The festival is organized by various samba schools in Brazil which are sometimes involved in community services as well. A major parade is made with beautifully dressed samba dancers on the top of decorated moving vehicles that go around the Sambadrome stadium. Often wearing masks and colorful costumes, they dance to the beats of drums and music, Samba is the main form of dancing there. Also, there’s a competition held in the end of the festival, when the crowd has to vote for the best costume, the best vehicle and the best samba school.
Each neighborhood in Rio has its own Carnival Street Party. There are around 300 of them in Rio every year. The street parties are also called “blocos”, and the atmosphere is just full of life, and everybody who parties is dancing in the streets, singing out loud, and making sure they have a really good time. Anyone is allowed to participate in streets a festival, that’s why it’s so special. There’s no segregation, literally, the whole world is invited.
Carnival in Salvador
Salvador is a city in the northeast of Brazil that has a lot of beautiful beaches and every February the Carnival happens. The Salvador carnival is the most fun one. If in Rio, you are a spectator of the parade, in the Salvador Carnival you are the show.
The event lasts officially for six full days: it starts on a Thursday, then follows the usual five days of carnival ( from Friday to Wednesday at noon).
The parties have a special name, “Bloco”, and it happens behind the “Trio eletrico” that is basically a big truck moving really slowly loaded with sound equipment’s and with a famous band or a famous singer singing on the top. The Salvador Carnival has some tradition singers like: Ivete Sangalo, Daniela Mercury and Preta Gil. Contrary to what most people think, carnival is not only about samba, it has funk too and at the moment, the most famous singers of funk are: Anitta and Pablo Vittar.
Each Bloco sells a different T-shirt called “Abada”. This T-shirt is your entrance ticket and allows you to get inside the rope area. If you enter the V.I.P area of the event, you can see a lot of famous people with the “Abada” totally stylized.
Carnival in Olinda
The old colonial town of Olinda, a few miles from Recife, became a popular carnival spot in 1977, where every street corner has a band following their own routes. Children, parents, and grandparents all party together. Political and social causes are common themes that are well presented through costumes and music.
One of the main attractions of the carnival in Olinda is the giant puppets made from papier-mâché. The “Homem da Meia-Noite” or “Man of Midnight” is the most famous puppet that officially opens the carnival in Olinda every year; a tradition since 1932.
For most people here, Carnival is this magical time when it’s totally ok to dress up weirdly, fill your hair and face with glitter, become friends with total strangers and start deep love affairs that last the time of two “frevo” verses.
If you like partying and want to immerse yourself in this rich culture, you should definitely spend Carnival in Olinda. You’ll hardly find a similar event somewhere else, with all the joy and excitement that takes hold of anyone that’s part of it. But truth be told, it takes a good deal of strategy to enjoy everything this party has to offer. So here are some tips for those who will go for the first time:
– Wear comfortable clothes and closed-toe, comfortable and not too beloved shoes – after all, it’s likely they will be destroyed by the end of Carnival.
– Eat well before leaving home, since drinking on an empty stomach is not advisable, but try to avoid heavy foods.
– Take an old cell phone with you instead of your “real one”, if possible.
– Avoid walking against the flow of the “blocos”. It’s easier to wait for them to pass, or to simply follow them.
– Avoid going alone, it’s more fun and safer to go with friends or family.