Carnival week is one of the most awaited events in Rio, but the parties in Rio start weeks before the Brazil Carnival Week itself. Brazil Carnival week happens before Lent, and is considered as the last all-out celebration before everyone enters into a state of penitence. The locals and tourists of Rio all participate in this extravagant affair filled with groovy samba music, addictive dance moves, and the most magnificent costumes you will ever lay eyes on. If you want to experience a one of a kind party, then this is the party you should never miss.
Rio de Janeiro
Carnival in Rio has earned its reputation as the world’s most famous dance party, when all matters serious come to a halt during the five days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Attending Carnival is the ultimate rite of passage for global festival lovers. Go, and you’ll understand why the Cariocas (Rio’s enthusiastic locals) affectionately refer to it as “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Rio Carnival – Party Like a Pagan
Those old world pagans sure knew how to translate religion into party. In Catholic Europe beginning in the Middle Ages, all decadent food and drink had to be consumed prior to Lent to remove temptation during the 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter (Carnival period begins on the Saturday before Lent and ends on Shrove Tuesday, also called Fat Tuesday). Historically, winter supplies were emptied in an all-out, gluttonous feast of the flesh to welcome the spring. As these traditions migrated to the Portuguese colony of Brazil, Rio Carnival transformed into something new. While the reformations and Inquisition attempted to sweep Europe of sin and tamed the wild feasts, the church could not contain what had developed in the Southern Hemisphere.
Salvador – Bahia
There are several major differences between Carnival in the state of Bahia in Northeastern Brazil and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The musical styles are different at each carnival; in Bahia there are many rhythms, including samba, samba-reggae, axé, etc., while in Rio there is the multitude of samba styles: the “samba-enredo”, the “samba de bloco”, the “samba de embalo”, the “funk-samba”, as well as the famous “marchinhas” played by the “bandas” in the streets.
Olinda – Pernambuco
The North East state of Pernambuco has unique Carnivals in its present capital Recife and in its colonial capital Olinda. Their main rhythms are the frevo and the maracatu. Galo da Madrugada is the biggest carnival parade in the world, considering the number of participants, according The Guinness Book of World Records. It means “dawn’s rooster” and parades, as the name suggests, in the morning only. Frevo is Pernambucan-style dance with African and acrobatic influences, as it is fast and electrifying, often using an open umbrella and frequent legs and arms movements.
The carnival in São Paulo takes place in the Anhembi Sambadrome on the Friday and Saturday night of the week of Carnival, as opposed to Rio’s Carnival, which is held on Sunday and Monday night.
Various “samba schools” compete in a huge parade. Each school presents a different theme, which they expose through their costumes, dance, music, and the allegorical cars or “carros alegóricos”, huge vehicles decorated according to the theme designed specifically for the parade.
Minas also holds some important carnival parades, mainly in the historic cities of Ouro Preto, Mariana, São João del Rei, and Diamantina. They are held mostly by students’ houses, which attract a majority of young people from the neighbor states. There are also other major parades in the region, such as the one in Pompéu.
Some southern cities such as Uruguaiana, Florianópolis, Manaus, and Porto Alegre have smaller samba school groups or blocos, but like São Paulo state towns, they seem to prefer balls to street dancing. Curitiba hosts modest carnival celebrations similar to those of other Brazilian cities and events such as Curitiba Rock Festival and a carnival Zombie Walk, all supported by Cultural Foundation of Curitiba which operates under supervision of government of Curitiba.