Though perhaps the most famous place for holding Carnival, Brazil cannot actually take credit for its invention. Rooted in a solemn kind of history, Carnival arose because of the period of Lent, as defined by the Christian calendar. Lent comes before Easter and is traditionally a period of abstaining from rich foods, such as meats and sugar. Therefore, communities would try to consume these delicacies before Lent. These focused gatherings of feasting is thought to be the origin of Carnival. In time, Carnival emerged mainly in areas with large Catholic populations, including places like Venice, where the use of masquerade masks remain popular, to cities like New Orleans, where the event is know by a different name: Mardi Gras.
Now a time reknowned for festivities and reveling, Carnival is a highly anticipated Brazilian holiday and the thrill of experiencing one actually in Brazil is on many a bucket list. There, the entire country comes to a stop and “Brazilian Carnival,” as it is known to foreigners, encompasses four days of relentless carousing and grand celebrations. Certain areas of Brazil are known for their own unique versions of Carnival and a breakdown of the most popular follows below:
Rio de Janeiro
In the city of Rio, carnival is synonymous with Samba. Several samba schools perform during street carnivals and for two days, the main street of Avenida Marques de Sapucaí – or the Sambadrome – is packed with floats, dancers, school members, locals and celebrities.
In other parts of the city, Carnival celebrations get a head start in neighborhood block parties. This year alone, 538 blocks are anticipated to come alive with festivities, both day and night, for family, friends, visitors and residents alike.
Known as the biggest party on the planet, Salvador hosts the most Carnival enthusiasts than any other Brazilian city. Samba is mixed with reggae and street carnivals are packed with people day and night. Gigantic trucks known as “Trios Eléctricos” blast the music that sexy Mardi Gras Muses dance to, including famous performers of the country, such as Claudia Leitte, Ivete Sangalo and Daniela Mercury. In Salvador, grandstands line the area of Campo Grande and with the purchase of tickets, spectators can enjoy the parade without the jostling about of those resigned to street level.
Also in northeast Brazil, the city of Olinda is famous for its street carnivals fused with African-influenced dances. There are gigantic walking puppets parading through the streets and best of all, admission is free (unlike in Rio and Salvador). Small musical groups are central to Olinda’s celebrations and the almost 200 shows slated for this year’s festivities include acts such as Alceu Valencia, Fafá Bethlehem, Contemporary Orchestra of Olinda, Siba and Violated Quintet.
Bailes de Carnaval
Glamourous costume balls, complete with streamers, confetti and carnival marches still exist, one famed example being Vogue’s Fantasy Gala. The gala is the ultimate pre-party to Carnival and each meticulously selected invitee arrives flaunting gorgeous gowns and costumes. An exclusive event, this ball draws out the most beautiful celebrities and socialites of the country, giving the time old tradition of Carnival a very modern and high fashion twist!