Carnaval is Brazil’s largest festival event. Its name originated from the Latin words “carne vale” which means “farewell to the flesh” since the celebration occurs seven Sundays before Easter, and meat consumption is traditionally restricted by Catholics over the 40 days of Lent. The history of Brazil’s Carnaval is traced back to 1723, with original parties credited to the European immigrants who organized masked costume parties and street parades. The more elaborate spectacles of today began in the 19th century, which ushered in the use of decorated floats and choreographed performances.
When is Carnaval?
In Rio de Janeiro, more than 500 organized blocos de rua occur during the months of February and March, culminating with a Friday evening celebration on February 28th where the city’s mayor Eduardo Paes officially kicks off Carnaval festivities by handing the key to the city over to King Momo - Lord of Misrule and Revelry Official. Samba schools compete in parades called desfiles all night long on Sunday, March 2nd and Monday, March 3rd. The competition is televised live by the Brazilian TV network GLOBO, and concludes with a televised judging of the parade performances on Tuesday, March 4th. The parade of champions on Saturday, March 8th, showcases the winning samba schools for a second time.
Throughout their preparation for the Samba parade and competion, many Samba schools host Saturday feijoada feasts in their sprawling auditoriums. The traditional Brazilian black bean stew is served accompanied by parade-worthy dancing to the pulsating beats of the bateria drumline and a samba enredo that vocalizes the school’s annual theme.
Street parties accommodate the throngs of people that overflow from the bulging doors of the samba schools, which are often filled to capacity. Outside, the muffled music competes with boom boxes blasting out the latest funk favorites as enterprising merchants mount makeshift food carts.
Next up, favorite Brazilian foods and drinks to serve during Carnaval...