Carnival – One of the biggest celebrations in Brazil

One of the celebrations that I miss the most from Brazil is the Carnival. The Brazilian Carnival celebration is considered one of the liveliest and most representative of the world and the most popular of the country. For its magnitude, Carnival is considered a holiday in Brazil, and during this time I usually catch up with my friends and travel somewhere to enjoy this big party. Influenced by European festivals, Carnival came to Brazil around the seventeenth century, with influences from Portuguese festivals of large puppets and street games.

The Carnival party emerged from the deployment of Holy Week by the Catholic Church, preceded by forty days of fasting, Lent. This long period of deprivation would eventually encourage the meeting of various festivities in the days preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The word “carnival” is thus related to the idea of enjoyment of the pleasures of the flesh marked by “carnis valleys”, which eventually form the word “carnival”. “Carnis” in Latin means meat and “valles “means pleasure.

In general, the carnival lasts for three days, with the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. In contrast to Lent, a time of penance and deprivation, these days are called “fat”, especially Tuesday (Fat Tuesday, also known by its French name Mardi Gras). The term Mardi Gras means Carnival.

Until 1930 the costumes were simple, tailored clothes, dyed, decorated so naive, because the materials that could enrich them, as fabrics, ornaments, shoes, headgear, were very expensive, appearing in school parades samba. Some costumes have become more popular, such as skull, odalisque, medical, bat, mischievous super-heroes, devil, prince, jester, Pierrot, Colombina, star, clown.

The carnival in Pernambuco, especially in Olinda and Recife, is one of the most cheerful and popular street carnivals in Brazil. Playing typical Brazilian songs on the street as “frevo” and “maracatu”, the bands drag crowds everywhere. The parade of giant puppets, Recife is one of the main attractions of this city during the carnival. In the city of Salvador (Bahia), there are electric trios, packed in dance music singers and groups typical of the region.

The city of Rio de Janeiro was a pioneer in the samba schools, being the first one called “Deixa Falar” (Let it talk). With the growth and popularization of the carnival in the twentieth century, new exciting carnival music emerges. Nowadays, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo host parades competitions in which samba schools perform a procession with music, choreography and colorful allegorical cars. For the samba school that has the best performance it’s offered a good amount of money as a prize. The competitions take place at a big stadium called Sambodromo, designed with spectator viewing areas surrounding the alley where the samba schools perform. for better performance the place called Sambodromo. Each school choses its own dancers to wear costumes and perform on the parade.


Picture – Courtesy by: Sérgio (Savaman) Savarese

The colourful samba costume design in Brazil is a cycle of creation and persistence for samba schools to reach the highest score for their fantasy. Prototypes are made for each costume and the trappings are made by the community. The design of the costumes have influences of the nature and the animals.

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2 Responses to Carnival – One of the biggest celebrations in Brazil

  1. audreydog says:

    I never realized the connection with the samba schools and the competition involved. You say the trappings for the costume are made by the community- is this the samba school, or the community where a samba school is located? Did you ever get to work on the costumes? That community involvement makes me think of the involvement of volunteers in making the flower-covered floats in the US parades. Enjoyed learning about the Carnival!


    • Hi Bill! Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you like the carnival and samba schools! Anwsering your question, the trappings are made by the samba school and sometimes they also involve part of the community on the work. I neve had a chance to work on it before, but I would love to see how these costumes are made! 🙂

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