Brazil is known as a nation of contrasts. Of all the festivities that take place in this vibrant country, the Brazilian Carnival is without a doubt, the most popular annual celebrations that take place. These celebrations kick off around forty six days prior to Easter. One could regard the carnival as ‘A Final Indulgence’ of everything possibly imaginable. Food, sex, music and alcohol. After all, “Carnival” itself is derived from the Latin words, “Carne Vale” which means “Farewell to the Flesh”. Of course, what follows after these celebrations are 40 days of purging sins. A time for fasting and abstinence, until Easter.
Now, as far as history goes, the origins of the carnival have been greatly influenced by the Greek, Romans and Portuguese. Through the years, the carnival underwent rapid changes with the influence from African and Amerindian cultures as well. The Portuguese called it “Entrudo”, a mindless event where everyone would fling mud, food or water on each other.
The parades happen around many places in Brazil. The large ones are generally meant for public viewing, while the smaller ones encourage participation from anyone and everyone. Rio de Janeiro, Porto Seguro, São Paulo, Salvador da Bahia and Recife are some of the places where you can find some full-on celebrations.
Since Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia have the largest carnivals, we shall take a closer peek into these areas.
CARNIVAL IN RIO DE JANEIRO
Rio has long since been known as the ‘Carnival Capital of the World’. The city of Rio have the Portuguese to thank from bring the concept of the carnival back in 1859. A funny story actually; The Brazilians used to go in frenzy, causing riots until the carnival was accepted by their government as an expression of culture. They were finally successful and got four days to go wild.
Sambódromo Stadium is the focal point of all celebrations here in Rio de Janeiro. The lavish carnival is complete with some spectacular floats, dancers, singers and an endless parade of drummers. All those participating in the carnival wear elaborate costumes (Sometimes close to nothing), and get their freak on. Almost all the music played at the carnival is samba. It comes to no surprise that most carnivals are led by samba schools.
An estimated 800,000 tourists from the world over visit Rio to be a part of the celebrations every year. The carnival is such a celebrated event that one could easily imagine it to be Brazil’s New Year celebrations.
CARNIVAL IN SALVADOR DA BAHIA
Leaving glamorous Rio behind, we make our way to Salvador da Bahia. The carnival is celebrated with equal enthusiasm here as it would in Rio. In both cities, celebrations last a few days before lent and is all about music, parades and having a blast of a time. And this is the only thing that ties the knot between the two cities.
In Rio the carnival is held at Sambódromo Stadium with a huge parade and all, while the carnival in Salvador happens on the streets. This is one of the largest outdoor celebrations in the world where millions dance through the night on the colonial streets of Salvador.
Out here, the celebration lasts for weeks. The music begins at noon and continues to pump adrenal way into wee hours of the following morning. Celebrations here are all about happiness. Numerous artists display their talents on mammoth trucks packed with speakers (Sometimes 18-wheeler mega trucks), commonly known as “Trio Electricos”. The tradition was started by two Bahian musicians who performed on a pickup truck.
The atmosphere of the carnival is like none other. Such an epic event is never missed out by any Television broadcasting company. Parade’s through the streets, pulsating music, people dancing and pandemonium all over. The Carnival in Brazil is a time when race and status are all forgotten.