The Biggest Show on Earth: Rio de Janeiro Carnival
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Earning the title of ‘the biggest show on earth’, Rio de Janeiro carnival is a week-long celebration that brings the entire country together. It is a humungous party that involves drinking, dancing, being merry and letting go of all inhibitions. Learn all about Rio de Janeiro carnival and what makes it the greatest show on earth.
What is the Rio Carnival?
The Carnival do Rio de Janeiro or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a yearly festival held as a celebration before the 40 days of lent.
It is mixture of Portuguese and African culture. It was introduced to Brazil by the Portuguese colonizers in the early 1600s as a food festival before the 40 days of lent fasting.
The festival with its roots associated with Catholicism, began when Catholic worshipers feasted before giving up on meat during Lent.
It was celebrated as formal balls in the elite Portuguese homes and slowly entered Afro-Brazilian homes. The infusion of African culture was in the form of rhythms, music, elaborate fancy dresses, and dance that converted the festival into a carnival witnessed today.
When Does Rio Carnival Begin?
It begins every year on the Friday before Shrove Tuesday and ends on Ash Wednesday. It is kind of a national holiday.
The Beginning of Samba
The carnival was a segregated celebration for many years and it was not until the 20th century, the festival reached the streets. Soon, it turned into a festival celebrated together.
Samba, the music of the poor and slaves became the face of the Carnival. In the early 1920s, the 1st schools of samba were established and the 1st samba parade competition was held in 1933.
The Essence of Rio Carnival
The most important aspect of the carnival is the parade that includes huge floaters, party-goers, and the elaborate decoration associated with the samba schools in Rio.
These parades make the carnival colorful, energetic and set the mood high. Each school adheres to the set rules.
The Front Commission, a group of 10 to 15 people introduce the school and helps set the mood. They wear elaborate costumes and dance along merry tunes. They are followed by massive floats and dancers whose performances are rated by a panel of 40 judges.
The judges sit at key points at the Sambodromo stadium, which can accommodate 80,000 visitors and 5,000 participants. The judges appraise each movement, thread and sequin on each costume, the song, and the integrity of samba.
The energy is palpable at the stadium as you can feel the resonance of cymbals, drums and trumpets. In the end, the winner is declared which is matter of great honor for the winning samba school.
The Carnival Queen
The selection of Carnival Queen is another important event of the carnival. The Carnival Queen is decided on the basis of her beauty and unmatched dancing skills.
Other Happenings at the Carnival
Along with the massive display of samba schools at the carnival, there are many simultaneous street parties happening at the parade. The locals as well tourists enjoy the blocos (moving music vans) that encourages party-goers to dance, drink, and socialize.
Costumes of Rio Carnival
The costumes too play an important role in the carnival. Each costume is made months in advance with each thread, feather, jewel, and sequence stitched with a lot of thought.
These designs are made to add color and spice to the celebrations, attracting spectators from around the world. The designs are sensual, invigorating, and each design is a reflection of the theme of the carnival parade. The dazzling headdresses and overstated accessories all accentuate the elaborate, stunning look.
This biggest show on earth in Rio de Janeiro is definitely extravagant with over 2 million people pouring over the streets from all over the world. It is definitely the best place to shed all inhibitions and let your hair loose. It is definitely the time that spells the advent of New Year for all Brazilians.