Brazilian Culture

It's February and there comes Carnaval!

It's February and there comes Carnaval! Foto: Flickr/Carlos Varela

One of the most expected dates of the Brazilian year is just around the corner: Carnaval!

As you may already know, this is not a original Brazilian tradition. Its "invention" comes from the 11th century, when the Roman Catholic church established the Holy Week. The decree required that followers observed a forty-day period of fast and penitence -- Lent -- as a preparation for the Easter celebrations. What became known as "Ash Wednesday" marks the beginning of Lent; and, the days that precede it were considered as a great opportunity to feast on meat ("carne"): Carnaval!

Today's Christians do not observe Lent for that long as they did in the past. However, the enthusiasm for Carnaval grew significantly in some cultures...

The Brazilian Carnaval

In Brazil, Carnaval's holiday is officially on tuesday (mardi-gras!); though, the festivities last for four days, starting on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. In this long weekend, the party takes over the streets of cities all over the country and Brazilians call this most traditional way to celebrate "Carnaval de Rua".

In Rio de Janeiro, the street party grew to become the great spectacle that is the Samba Schools Parade -- with their notorious floats and costumes. However, the party is not restricted to the Samba Schools; the streets of Rio are taken by the "Blocos de Carnaval" and the street party tradition lives on. Even though Samba is the cornerstone rhythm of Rio's carnaval, in today's Carnaval party goers will find musical alternatives such as the "Bloco do Sargento Pimenta", who plays Beatles' tunes with carnaval rhythms and "Fogo e Paixão", that brings popular romantic tunes to the beats of the party.

The city of Salvador, Bahia, is famous for its fun packed "Carnaval de Rua". There, Samba-reggae (or "Axé") is the ruling rhythm coming out of the "Trios Elétricos" and is heard and danced to all over town. The "trios" are sound packed trucks that ride in pre-arranged paths around the city ("circuitos"), and there are more than 150 of organized parades. These groups gather more than 2 million locals and tourists in the four days of Carnaval.

In Pernambuco, the party happens to the sound of Frevo, the state's staple rhythm. In the streets of Recife and Olinda, the "blocos de rua" carry around their trademark "giant figures" that represent personalities and celebrities. The "bloco" "Galo da Madrugada" gather thousands of party goers and is one of the major attractions of Recife's carnaval.

Though the holiday is synonym to party for millions around the country, many people take the opportunity to exchange these busy days for trip or a relaxing long weekend away from the buzz.

What about you? What are your plans for Carnaval? How is the date celebrated in your town? Let us know!






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