In the modern world, we tend to think of ourselves as pretty good partiers. The truth is, we’re amateurs compared to some people throughout history. In many societies, life was hard and to keep people from going crazy, certain times of year were designated as times to let loose, go nuts, and party it up. It is what historians call a safety valve – a way to release all the social pressures that build up in society during the year.
Perhaps the most famous of these events is Carnival, and perhaps the most famous example of Carnival is found in Brazil. Brazil’s Carnival is a roughly week-long party, ending on Ash Wednesday, a Christian holiday that denotes the beginning of Lent. It’s a big deal to many people, and a piece of their heritage.
The Brazilian Carnival is inspired by the Portuguese tradition of celebrating life prior to the beginning of the solemn period of Lent which involves abstinence from the luxuries of life and strict adherence to spiritual and religious principles involving prayers, penance, charity, and repentance. The carnival celebrations thus date back to the early 19th Century when the Portuguese settlers in the country would indulge in food, drinks, dancing, singing, and parading before Lent. By the late 19th Century, the celebrations became more widespread and large-scale street performances and parades began to be arranged, drawing large crowds to enjoy the festivities. Since then, there has been no looking back and today the Brazilian Carnival earns the country huge income from tourist revenue.
The Brazilian Carnival offer unique flavors at the different regions where it is celebrated. The most popular celebrations are held in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The parades are the major attraction of the festival. These parades are primarily organized by the city’s Samba schools and is held at “Sambódromo”, a purpose-built stadium constructed specially to host the annual parade.
But many neighborhoods in the city has its own parade as well, the “blocos”, involving participants dressed up in costumes, with lots of music and dance.
In Bahia, the carnival is heavily influenced by African culture and incorporates traditional African music like reggae with Brazilian samba. In Pernambuco, the Carnival is again associated with an African influence. The carnival at Pernambuco’s capital of Recife is considered to be one of the biggest carnival parades in the world. In São Paulo, similar to Rio, samba schools compete against each other and present different themes related to the history, culture, and politics of the region. Other places in Brazil like Vitória, Minas Gerais, and Manaus also celebrate the Carnival in their own unique ways.
Over the years, the Brazilian Carnival has been highly popularized and currently draws crowds from all corners of the globe to Brazil each year. The greatest volume of crowd arrives at Rio de Janeiro, also known as the “Carnival Capital of the World”. Every year, an average of around 500,000 international tourists arrive at Rio to participate and witness its colorful Carnival celebrations. Other parts of Brazil celebrating the carnival also receives a huge volume of tourists. In 2015, the number of tourists attending the Rio’s Carnival skyrocketed to 977,000 and earned the city a revenue of $782 million USD. São Paulo also hosted nearly a million visitors during its carnival period in 2015. Other sites in Brazil hosting the Brazil Carnival also receive significant tourist footfall during the carnival days accompanied with huge income from tourist revenue.
Check it out some interesting facts about our carnival:
• Rio’s Carnival is registered on the Guiness Book as the biggest carnival in the world.
• It is not a secret that Brazilian people love beer but during the carnival this love is even bigger: 10 million liters of beer are consumed every year in Salvador only during the event.
• There are more than 2 million people on the streets every day during the carnival in Rio.
• Although Carnival is Brazil’s most important festival the biggest celebrations are held in Rio, São Paulo, Salvador, Recife, Olinda and Manaus.
• One of the greatest things about Carnival is that those taking part in the Samba Parade are often from the local communities such as the favelas (slums). They practice and make their costumes and floats all year. Each area has their own samba school and they compete against their local rivals in the carnival.
• Held in the Sambódromo, the schools are judged on their elaborate floats, costumes, dancing and music. This is a very important competition and some schools spent over 4 million dollars on outfits and preparations.
Source: World Atlas