What to Know About Carnival in Brazil
Before we start, let’s listen to some Ivete Sangalo to get in the Carnival mood
Now that your ears have been blessed with one of Brazil’s greatest exports, let’s get down to business. Carnival is a six day event of absolute madness just one week prior to Lent, the six week period of time for abstaining from any vice that one wishes to take a break from indulging in. This period of time is usually very difficult for those who choose to partake.
However, these people can thank their lucky stars that before this trying time of giving up their guilty pleasures, there is an event in which they can indulge in any and all depraved acts that they wish. From February 5th through the 10th, revelers from around the world will be participating in the debauchery of the world famous Carnaval do Rio (Rio Carnival).
What is Carnival?
The first known celebration of Carnival can be traced back to 1723, when immigrants from Portugal introduced the Brazilians to entrudo, or “entrance” into the Lent. At the time, the main point was to get everyone in the streets covered from head to toe in water and limes, including royalty! However, authorities believed this was disrespectful so chucking limes at emperors was quickly outlawed.
Nearly 300 years later, Carnival now offers Sambódromo, massive Samba parades filled with opulent and extravagant costumes, crowds of people wandering the streets while sipping (or chugging) caipirinhas (pronounced: kye-pee-rrrreen-yas), and eating traditional (and painfully delicious) Brazilian food, all while innumerable genres of Brazilian music can be heard in the background.
What to Expect and Where to Go?
Because every aspect of Carnival originates from a different part of the country, each state celebrates Carnival a bit differently. For example:
In Rio and São Paolo, the Carnaval blocos (who eventually became known as the Samba-schools), are world-famous for their themed musical numbers while in costume or some sort of special clothing. Usually associated with particular neighborhoods, they loudly and excitedly parade through the city while competing with the other musical groups, paying homage to the original
However, the Rio parade (the largest in the world) is held on the nights of the 7th and the 8th, while the São Paolo parade, which is much more subdued, is held on the nights of the 5th and the 6th.
In the Bahia state, the style of music is completely different than that of Rio. While Rio is more Samba-heavy, the music in Bahia is mostly samba-reggae and axé (from the Yoruba word for soul or good vibration), as a result of the heavy Afro-Caribbean influence in the area.
In Pernambuco we have the Carnival of all Carnivals. Once the largest of all celebrations, Galo da Madrugada, meaning dawn’s rooster, takes place in Recife and is a morning only parade that takes the local style of dance, Frevo, and adds African and acrobatic flair.
Unlike other parades, Galo do Madrugada is not a competition and many of the performances are extremely fast, and open umbrellas are a common prop for the performers.
The Espírito Santo style of Carnival in Vitória is similar to those in Rio and São Paolo in that the schools choose their themes, usually revolving around a historical, cultural, or political movement, and then proceed to compete in the parade. However, the Carnival in Vitória is performed a week before the Carnival everywhere else.
The parades in the Minas Gerais style of Carnival are usually held in students’ houses and mainly in the historic cities of Ouro Preto, Mariana, São João del Rei, and Diamantina. Characterized by blocos carnavalescos, eclectic takes on samba and tango.
Creating a fusion of the Rio and Bahia Carnivals, the Ouro Preto Carnival has become popular with college students in the area, who take advantage of the city’s hills that lack vehicle traffic, and party in the streets throughout the daytime and nighttime.
Many other cities in Brazil have different takes on how they prefer to celebrate Carnival. Be it a zombie walk in Curitiba or smaller samba groups or blocos in Uruguaiana, Florianópolis, and Porto Alegre, there is 100% without a doubt something to feed everyone’s Carn(iv)al desires somewhere in this outrageously fun festival in this outstandingly beautiful country.
Where to Stay?
Known as undercover hotels, in order to honor our agreements with our distinguished hotel partners, we are sometimes unable to show you the hotel name together with the large discount rate and potentially compromise these hotel’s reputations.
While this is not the case with all hotels that we work with, the hotels in this area at this time do in fact fall under that category. However, DO NOT let that stop you from booking! 3+ star hotels that are centrally located, many of which include breakfast, are still at your pontas dos dedos (fingertips).
For more info about undercover hotels, check out www.lastminutetravel.com/undercover.aspx
What to Know and What Not to Do at Carnival?
- Public transportation runs 24 hours a day
- Urinating in public is ILLEGAL
- Be wary of pickpockets
- Bring water with you. Water bottles tend to sell out quickly at carnival
- Blocos usually start one to two hours after the official starting-time
- Participating in a bloco is safe and they are always heavily policed. However, if you get rowdy and try to start a fight with a local, no one will help you. So please, go crazy but don’t be dumb.