The Carnival of Brazil or Carnaval do Brasil is an annual Brazilian festival held between the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday at noon, which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty-day period before Easter. During Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term “carnival”, from carnelevare, “to remove (literally, “raise”) meat.” In 2019, Carnaval do Brasil will be held on 1 March to 6 March.
Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In the southeastern cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Vitória, huge organized parades are led by samba schools. Those official parades are meant to be watched by the public, while minor parades (“blocos“) allowing public participation can be found in other cities, like Belo Horizonte. The northeastern cities of Recife, Olinda, Salvador, and Porto Seguro have organized groups parading through streets, and public interacts directly with them. The carnival is a six-day party where crowds follow the trios elétricos, a kind of truck or float equipped with a high power sound system and a stage for music performance on the top, playing for the crowd as it drives through the city streets, dancing and singing.
Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Except for industrial production, retail establishments such as malls, and carnival-related businesses, the country unifies completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities.
In Rio de Janeiro, carnaval blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or special T-shirts with themes and/or logos, parade through city avenues performing on instruments and dancing. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighborhoods; they include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revelers. They eventually became the “fathers” of what everyone today knows as the famous and internationally renowned samba-schools in Brazil.
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.
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. 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. Galo da Madrugada, a carnival parade that happens every carnival Saturday in downtown Recife, 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.
If you are in Brazil on March, make sure to join one of the Carnaval do Brazil! How about you? Have you ever been to one of the Carnaval do Brazil? Tell us!