CARNAVAL DE RIO DE JANEIRO
Do you know that Carnivals, the festivals and parades, the street dancing and the masquerading, which occur immediately before Lent, are basically a world-wide celebration? Do you know that more than 80-90 countries in the world celebrate carnivals and that most of them are usually celebrated during the month of February?
Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. But its origin dates back to the Greeks and the Romans… and the catholic religion integrated those celebrations into their religious calendar. The Carnaval de Rio de Janeiro is the biggest Carnival in the world, the world's most famous and the biggest popular party on the planet, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
But let’s go back to the origin of Carnival. Even the origin of the word is debated. Is it from the Latin expression “carne levare” meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent or from “carne vale” which means "farewell to meat"? Carne may also be translated as flesh, so it might be "a farewell to the flesh" too. Or is it originated from the Roman name, “carrus navalis” for the festival of the Navigium Isidis (ship of Isis), a festival with a parade of masks following an adorned wooden boat? (that would explain the floats of modern Carnivals). Some suggest that the word is so ancient that it might reflect a fusion of all these origins; the Carnivals around the world are indeed now a fusion of many ethnic traditions.
There are Carnivals in the US, the most famous is Mardi Gras in New Orleans; in the Caribbean, where the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival is the most famous one, in Colombia with Barranquilla’s being the most popular; in Bolivia, the 3 days of the Festival de Oruro is spectacular, in Dominican Republic (La Vega & San Pedro de Macoris), Guatemala (in the town of Mazatenango where I lived the first years of my life), in Panama, in México (Mazatlán, Yucatán, Veracruz); and I am only mentioning a few.
But some of those you probably heard before. What about India? Well, in the state of Goa, especially in the city of Panaji, they celebrate the “Intruz” (from the Portuguese word Entrudo, an alternative name for Carnival - the Portuguese ruled over Goa for over four centuries). What about Denmark? Well, the Danish “Fastelavn” is in the same dates, a sort of Nordic Halloween.
And Greece? The Greeks celebrate “Apokriés” (saying goodbye to meat) and the famous “Tsiknopémptẽ” (Smoke Thursday), when roast beef is cooked everywhere in open pits and the smoke covers the country (The city of Patras holds the most famous Greek carnival). And there are carnivals in France, Croatia, Belgium, Hungary, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, etc.
The most famous in Europe is by far the “Carnevale di Venezia”, an annual festival held in Venice that ends in the Martedi Grasso or Fat Tuesday. The Carnival, first recorded in 1268, is renowned for the splendid masks that are produced by the “mascherari”, works of art, some of them valued in thousands of dollars.
|Carnaval de Rio...
Let’s get back to Brazil. Rio celebrates its Carnival since 1723 and each year the Samba Schools compete for the first price preparing a theme for their parade presentation, a task that takes a whole year to plan and develop.
Each school builds its own floats and designs the different costumes and elements of the presentation that include hundreds of dancers, musicians, flag-carriers, helpers and the bahianas (a woman only group of more than 100 synchronized dancers). Each school develops its own music too and the “bateria” parades with the school playing for hours and hours.
In Rio, the “sambódromo”, a 90,000 open-ended stadium built in 1984, hosts the competition, and in three days, from 8 pm to early hours of the morning, the Samba Schools take their turn to make a show that nobody will easily forget. About half a million visitors come to Rio in February to participate in the world’s biggest party; you guessed it, there is dancing everywhere in Rio and in most of Brazil; Salvador is also known for their Carnaval!