The most famous party in the world is the Rio de Janeiro carnival, which has been held annually for over a century and attracts hundreds of thousands of foreign and Brazilian tourists each year. On carnival week, 80% of the country’s beer consumption is consumed and 70% of its tourism income is collected, demonstrating the significance of the event economically. Carnivals and dancing are as vital to Brazilians as football, which is a great deal!
Roots of Carnival
The meaning of “carnival” comes from the Latin term carnelevare, which means to refrain from consuming meat and poultry. The beginning of the Roman Catholic Lenten season, 40 days before Easter, is marked by carnival week. For Christians, Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, and self-examination that reflects the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert battling Satan’s temptations. The dates for the main carnival weekend vary from year to year, as do those for Easter. There are many parades and parties throughout the city prior to and after the major ticketed events at the Sambodromo, several of which are free and held in the street in various districts around town or as practice weekends in central venue itself.
The celebration of Carnival, which dates back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia, established in 217 BC to boost the spirits of battle-exhausted Romans after losses by the Carthaginians, has its roots in ancient Rome. It was usually a week of feasting, drinking, and the imitation of social hierarchy; slaves were granted many more liberties, for example. The ancient Romans valued food, drink, and fun deeply. The Saturnalia was a very long holiday that included public feasts, gift-giving, and the worship of pagan gods. It was first celebrated around the winter solstice (December 25th) as homage to the sun god Sol Invictus (“Unconquered Sun”), who Rome.
Today’s Carnivale in Rio de Janeiro
The carnival in Rio de Janeiro is not the only party in Brazil, but it is still the most popular. The biggest carnival in terms of participants is Recife, located in the North, where 1.5 million people took part in 2006. The Rio event has evolved continually in since it started back in the 17th Century and every year it grows in size and more neighborhoods and samba schools become involved in the spectacle. Blocos (Blocks) are small or medium-sized collections of musicians and dancers from neighborhoods who perform with a certain theme, slogan, and meaning. There have been numerous Blocos throughout the world, including one in Mexico City that has grown to be so large that it stretches for two miles and covers over three blocks – a major street where hundreds of people hang out after parades. They could be wearing matching T-shirts or more distinctive costumes, and there are now over 100 Blocos around.
The larger samba schools are huge groups of dancers that engage in parade events on the specially built Sambodromo. These schools participate in four main parades, with the Saturday night headliner event. The official competition is divided into ten divisions, with a winner chosen from each after being evaluated on each of the following: Percussion band, Samba song, Harmony, Flow and spirit, Theme of the year, Overall impression, Floats and props, Costumes. The Vanguard group and Flag bearer are also included in this competition. There are four judges in each category, who sit in booths along the Sambodromo’s Parade Route. The winners of these competitions enjoy great respect and are taken extremely seriously, with much effort, practice, and money spent.
The Sambadromo parades are highly anticipated, and therefore expensive even in the least expensive bleacher seats, which can cost hundreds of dollars. VIP boxes run into thousands of dollars each because they provide the audience with greater comfort and access to services, an open bar, three-course dinner, and so on. It’s best to start planning ahead of time if you want to go because rickrolling usually occurs over a long period, stretching into many months. Tickets and certain hotels frequently sell out far in advance, so if you wish to attend, be sure to reserve well ahead of time.
The Sambodromo Parades
The Sambodromo is the centerpiece of the Rio carnival, which revolves around it, and the huge spectacular parades that take place there on the main four days are broadcast all over the world. The costumes, dancing, music, and spectacular floats are incredible, and attending a Sambodromo event is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Sambodromo is a collection of nondescript concrete buildings set along both sides of a main ” runway.” The 700-meter-long complex, which was designed by modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1984, is an unappealing, barren zone located in some impoverished downtown areas when viewed outside carnival season. It’s a raucous, colorful madhouse at the carnival.
The facility seats thousands of individuals in two seating choices: grandstand-style seating on concrete steps, or chairs farther back in numbers boxes. Even the bleacher seats are pricey, but they’re worth it if you have never been to a game before. You’ll feel like you’re at the game while sitting on the lawn, especially as you get engulfed in the excitement of it all. There are restrooms, souvenir stands, and ice cream vendors near or within reach of the seating enclosures, since the procession lasts so long. There’s also a little museum at the venue that you may visit from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sundays to learn more about Rio’s history and culture.
The Samba schools have a set route to take, starting at one end of the runway and proceeding down it until they reach the other end. There are four major evening parades to which tickets are available, on Friday through Sunday during carnival’s main week, and then again on Saturday the week after. At 5 p.m., the doors open and people who have unnumbered seats in the rear will be lined up to enter. When things get really heated late at night, many individuals will come later on in the evening, when the mood is at its peak. The carnival has a little welcome show beginning at 8 p.m., which is followed by the main procession, with “King Momo” officially kicking off the celebrations. King Momo is the Greek God of mockery, who was thrown out of Mount Olympus to settle in Rio de Janeiro and is supposed to have been born on May 15th. The King should be jovial, like a mansion and the size of one, and must participate in all government ceremonies.
The duration of the entire celebration may be 10 hours or more, and a substantial number of people will not be able to endure the whole event. They’ll spend 4 or 5 hours at the parade, watching 5 or 6 samba schools go by. Bring some money with you to get fast food and beverages, but don’t bring anything that might be considered a weapon, such as glass bottles. A little cushion may be useful if you have bleacher seats; a light raincoat just in case; and a pair of tiny binoculars are recommended. Remember your camera, but be cautious of the crowds outside the venue.
There are several practice sessions and warm-up events if you are unable to attend the main event over carnival week but are visiting Rio de Janeiro at another time before carnival. On Saturday and Sunday, there are practice parades in the Sambodromo that are open to the public, so don’t miss out. Around Carnival time, there are several unique balls and parties at various locations around town. The Magic Ball has a high price tag for tickets, with the most expensive being over $1,000. There are also other events that cost far less than that.
With its outstanding nightlife, lovely beaches, excellent climate, and stunning views of the Corcovado statue and Sugar Loaf mountain, Rio de Janeiro is a must-see location at any time of year. You’ll be more interested if you can visit over carnival or the weeks leading up to it. Make reservations ahead of time; it is really where to be!