The carnival in Rio is the largest of its kind in the world. Spanning seven days, over two million people per day flood the streets in Rio De Janeiro. Despite its origins as a Catholic holiday to celebrate before Lent, the Carnival is now a time to eat, drink, and be merry while letting it all hang out.
The carnival is actually a blending of African and Portuguese cultures. The Portuguese, colonizing Brazil, brought with them a type of food festival that was meant to celebrate and eat freely before being bound to the fasting traditions of Lent.
The African culture in Brazil introduced new customs, music, rhythm, and dancing to the festival, and the carnival began to change into the non-stop party it has become.
A Party With Five Million People
Rio de Janeiro isn’t the only carnival in Brazil during the week-long celebration, but it is by far the largest. Rio attracts 5 million partygoers during the carnival. Rio’s first carnival dates 1723 and incorporated nonstop music and street parties for days.
In the 1920’s, samba schools began to gain traction in Rio de Janeiro and become a vital part of the celebrations. A samba school is a gathering of neighbors with shared backgrounds that wish to participate in a carnival parade.
The samba school decides on a theme, then plans its choreography and other aspects of its performance. Rio boasts 200 samba schools that are divided up into five leagues.
Each samba school contributes to the parades that make Rio de Janeiro’s carnivals so spectacular. The parades are a fun reflection of the samba school’s chosen theme, with decorated floats, dancers and party-goers.
While the floats and samba schools seem to have an energetic life all of their own, the schools must follow very strict codes that have been in place since the schools opened.
Each school must start with a Front Commission, a small group of between 10 to 15 people whose purpose is to set the style and the mood of the school, including dancing and elaborate costumes. The dancers and the floats follow the Front Commission.
All aspects of the samba school’s presentation are evaluated by judges, who elect winners at the end of the parades. All samba schools strive to win the competition.
Each carnival will choose a Carnival Queen. This lucky young lady is chosen for her beauty and her samba dancing talents and skills. The Carnival Queen must traditionally choose a man to represent the carnival king, King Momo. This event is the official start of Rio’s carnival.
The carnival is about far more than the parades running down the street; it’s also about the multitude of street parties that take place alongside them. The party has grown so massive that it now attracts tourists from across the globe to mingle with the locals. Vans blaring music, known as blocos, traverse the streets to encourage the massive crowd to dance and socialize.
This year, the festivities will span from March the 1st through March 9th.