If we previously wrote about Venice Carnival now it’s time to travel to the American continent for one of its greatest celebrations: the Rio Carnival in Brasil, happening this year from 18 February until 21st February. Vibrant colours, samba dances and music, exotic flavours… It sounds like a good plan!
The Rio Carnival is one of the most important and beautiful ones in the carnival scene in South America. The Brazilian Carnival is an annual celebration that takes place forty days before Easter (marking the beginning of Lent season). It has some variations with its European counterpart and also differences over the Brazilian territory.
This Carnival has its origins in ancient Rome, where the Carnival celebrations were intended to celebrate the arrival of spring. Following this, Carnival travelled to South America via the old European empires. Despite the Catholic inspiration, its European origins go back to a kind of pagan tradition called introit (“entry” in Latin) and “entrudo” in Portuguese, which main basically was a celebration where water was thrown from one person to another to purify the body. The “entrudo” was banned without much success in the mid-nineteenth century, because it was considered violent, vulgar and even dangerous by the higher social classes (it is said that some people died from infections and other diseases).
In Brazil, Carnival was in its origins an “African slaves celebration”. So on the one hand there is the influence of Western history, but on the other hand a huge African influence is noticeable in many features, such as dance, music, costumes, etc.. As an example, we can look at the samba dance that comes to Rio from Angola as part of the Yoruba religion. These dances, that once served the slaves as a way to survive, are now the historical memory of the Brazilian people.
In the late nineteenth century, cordões (“loops” in Portuguese) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro and consisted of groups of people walking through the streets playing music and dancing. The cordões were the ancestors of modern samba schools. The blocos (blocks), another name for cordões are some current popular representations of carnival in Brazil. They consist of people who dress according to certain themes or celebrate carnival in specific ways. The samba schools are real organizations working throughout the year in order to prepare for the carnival parade.
The greatness, beauty, rhythm, grace, sensuality that emanates from this Carnival is unique. Although Rio Carnival is the most famous among all the Brazilian one, we also recommend the one in Salvador de Bahia that remains very close to its origins. Everyone should visit these Carnivals at least one in live. Has you time arrived yet?
Photo credits: All images by Alvez