2/3/14

Carnival in Rio 2014


28 February – 4 March 2014

Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World. The Rio Carnaval is not only the biggest Carnival, it has also a benchmark against which every other carnival is compared and one of the most interesting artistic events on the Globe. Almost everyone has heard of the Rio Carnaval. Foreign visitors to it alone number around 500,000 every year.

Carnival in Rio is a wild 5 days celebration, 40 days before Easter. It officially starts on Friday and finishes on Fat Tuesday with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday after which one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnival with all its excesses, celebrated as a profane event, can be considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. It usually happens in February, the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere, when the Rio summer is at its peak
Often wearing masks and colorful costumes, they dance to the beats of drums and music, Samba being the most prevalent form of dancing here.
A major parade with beautifully dressed samba dancers and decorated moving vehicles goes through the stadium as hundreds of people keep joining the parade as the parade makes its way.

There are carnival celebrations in virtually every corner of Brazil, the best-known ones taking place in Recife together with the neighboring Olinda (in the North of Brazil) and Salvador Bahia. But the biggest and most famous carnival is undoubtedly the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
In Salvador de Bahia, carnival is celebrated a little differently. Street carnival is celebrated in this city rather than having a stadium as a venue for the parade. Thousands of people throng the streets from early dawn and dance their way through the city till late evenings. Carnival in Salvador also lasts a little longer than in Rio.

Carnival in Brazil is a major holiday when people shut shops and come out on the streets to celebrate life. The festival is organized by various samba schools in the country which are also involved in various community services.

The roots of Carnival trace back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated the rites of spring. Across Europe, including France, Spain and Portugal, people annually gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks and dancing in the streets. Such traditions were carried over to the New World.
The Portuguese first brought the concept of "celebration or carnival" to Rio around 1850. The practice of holding balls and masquerade parties was imported by the city’s bourgeoisie from Paris. However, in Brazil, the traditions soon became different. Over time, they acquired unique elements deriving from African and Amerindian cultures.
Groups of people would parade through the streets playing music and dancing. It was usual that during Carnival aristocrats would dress up as commoners, men would cross-dress as women and the poor dress up as princes and princesses - social roles and class differences were expected to be forgotten once a year but only for the duration of the festival.
Brazilians used to riot the Carnival until it was accepted by the government as an expression of culture. The black slaves became actively involved in the celebrations. They were able to be free for five days. Nowadays the slums' communities are still the most involved groups in all the carnival preparations and they are the ones for whom Rio Carnival means the most.
By the end of the 18 century the festivities were enriched by competitions. People would not just dress up in costumes but also perform a parade accompanied by an orchestra of strings, drums and other instruments. These ever more organized competitions became the main attractions of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, street carnival in Rio was musically a very euro centric affair - Polkas, Waltzes, Mazurkas and 'Scottish'. Meanwhile, the emergent working class (made up mainly of Afro Brazilians, along with some gypsies, Russian, Jews, Poles and etc.) developed their own music and rhythm. These people were mostly based in the central part of Rio, on a land that the rich did not want - on the hills and swamps behind the dockyards - an area which came to be known as 'Little Africa' now recognized as the cradle of samba.
The parades were halted during World War II and restarted in 1947. By then the main competition took place downtown on Avenida Rio Branco.
Carnival has gone a long way since it was brought to Rio, having become one of the biggest events in the World. One of the most important recent developments was that the biggest parade the Samba Parade  moved from the streets downtown to the purpose-built Sambodromo.



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