Once a year, the streets of Rio de Janeiro erupt in colour and sound for the Rio Carnival – one of the world’s most famous parties. Read all about it right here and find out what you’re missing.
As far back as classical times, the ancient Greeks celebrated the coming of spring by honouring the god of wine, Dionysus. The Romans too had their version, honouring their drunken deity Bacchus as the winter months came to a close and the weather began to warm up.
The Roman Catholic Church later adapted the celebration into a festival preceding Lent – and when Portuguese colonisers crossed the Atlantic, they took their Catholic beliefs with them. Needless to say, the carnival that evolved is probably a little more vibrant than the church expected!
Carnival celebrations in Brazil began in 1723 when Portuguese settlers introduced informal parties. Thankfully, these celebrations have moved beyond the throwing of water and mud and inevitable street brawling that ensued! By the early 20th century, samba had emerged as a unifying cultural force. Inherently Brazilian, this dance and musical style has its roots in Rio and Africa via the West African slaves, and has become an icon of Brazilian identity.
Samba schools from particular neighbourhoods in Rio (often the favelas) produce elaborate costumes, floats and special effects, acting out a homage to a myth, historic event of famous figure. Held over five days from the Friday to the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, carnival welcomes visitors to join in the mayhem.
Fuel the party with caipirinhas, Brazil’s unofficial nation drink (cachaça with crushed lime, sugar and ice) and enjoy the sights, sounds, samba and jubilant masses.
Visit the Rio Carnival with us and join the party!
Have you been to Carnival? Tell us all about it in the comments below!