RIO CARNIVAL: The Greatest Show on Earth

In the world we live in, heritage is something to celebrate. Most times, it defines the identities of people living in different countries. It showcases the uniqueness of a race, as well as the similarities they have among each other. Basically, it is celebrated generally in two ways: silent and serene, and loud and jovial. Religious events fall in the first category, and celebrations held on streets are definitely classified on the second.

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A colourful celebration

Loud and jovial celebrations are always the exciting things to witness, driving people to avail cheap flights to everywhere. As loud sounds of music mixes with the cheers and laughter of the attendees, days are adorned with colors as people wearing their best costumes strut through streets, dancing to every beat.

The elated atmosphere that surrounds these events are what mainly invites people to come and witness the celebrations. And among the many festivals in the world that epitomize this kind of nature, it is the Rio Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that stands out the most.

Rio What?

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Rio de Janeiro Street Carnaval (2013) Credit:

An intense definition of gaiety, the Rio Carnival is one of the most anticipated events in the world. Held annually before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, this spectacular festival draws in millions of people around the world to the streets of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

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Credit: The Epoch Times

Street dancers and revelers wearing colorful costumes in striking designs prance around the streets of the city, followed by huge floats adorned with flashy lights and decorations. Music booms amidst the open-air venues, thanks to the bateria, or the drumming bands that go around with the performers. One of the most anticipated bands is the Banda de Ipanema, a group that has been performing for the festival since 1965.

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While many are focused on the main parade held in the Sambodromo, an exhibition venue for many Samba schools, other smaller-scale celebrations are held simultaneously around the country. Balls and parades are organized at different places like Copacana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa and more, giving tourists other practical options when taking part on this momentous event.

History of a Steadfast Festivity

The history of Rio Carnival takes us a long way back to 1723 when the Portuguese immigrants introduced the Entrudo. It was a jovial festival that aims to get everybody wet with water and lime, and was even participated by the emperors. However, it was outlawed due to lack of limitations on its rules.

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During the mid-19th century, the idea of prancing around the streets with drums, percussions and whistles was introduced by a Portuguese shoemaker named José Nogueira de Azevedo. Every Monday, he and his group would revel around town and everybody’s encouraged to join the fun. Later on, it was called the Zé Pereira; and based on this concept, the booming drum bands of the festival was born.

The extravagance of the Rio Carnival’s costumes and floats can be attributed to the Great Societies in 1855. Known locally as Grandes Sociades, it was a more organized event that paraded the social elites of that time, including the emperors. They wear extravagant costumes and were surrounded by colorful flowers. Festive music plays in the background as they go around. The Cordão Carnavalesco in 1870 also contributed in the idea of the present-day celebration. In this event, participants dressed up like queens, kings, peasants and even witches during their street performances.

It was in 1907 when the Corso was introduced to the public. It is a parade of cars and this is from where the concept of luxurious floats is rooted.

In 1911, the main history of Rio Carnival began at the birth of Ranchos Carnavalescos. It was a smaller-scale version of the event today and was intended for the working class. At first, it was just a mere parade that involves people dancing in colorful costumes around the streets; but when Hanseática, a brewery company, decided to sponsor the event, organized competitions began.

A milestone to the history of Rio Carnival (and the carnival culture of the country, in general) happened on the late 19th century with the birth of what would be the national music of Brazil, Samba. This addictive type of music is basically what brings more life to the festivals. By the 1920’s, Samba schools – or groups of people from different neighborhood – were formed.

Although the yearly celebration was brought to a standstill due to World War II, it resumed on 1947. From then on, further developments were applied that led to the impressive and spectacular program used in Rio Carnival nowadays.

Sambadrome Parade

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One of the participants in 2013 Carnival Parade in Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome
Credit: The Atlantic

Tagged as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, the main event of the Rio Carnival is the Sambadrome Parade. While it is indeed a must to buy air tickets to Brazil to join the street parties outside this huge event venue, it is also important to witness the grandiosity of this major affair, despite the expensiveness of the tickets.

The Sambadrome Parade is actually a competition of samba schools from all over Brazil. It is a well-organized event that gathers people in flamboyant costumes, dancing to the beautiful music of Samba. This is where the stunning floats are seen too, so tourists are advised to never forget their cameras when watching the celebration.

All these activities happen inside the Sambadrome, an open-air venue which is intended for the Sambadrome Parade. Tickets are usually pre-ordered online as it gets a little difficult purchasing them on the spot.

Rio Carnival 2014

rio carnaval 2014 logo RIO CARNIVAL: The Greatest Show on EarthFor the year 2014, the Rio Carnival will be held from February 28 – March 4 2014. It will be the week immediately before the Ash Wednesday which is happening on March 5. Throughout these days, there will be parades and street dances to happen around the cities and municipalities of Brazil.

And everyone is invited.

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