The most important thing to know about Brazil Carnival is that during this time of year, anything and everything could happen – and it most often does! It’s a crazy time of year, a time when people let their hair down, throw their inhibitions out the window and do things that they maybe wouldn’t normally do.
Brazil Carnival – The Basic Lowdown
Is it ‘Carnival’ or ‘Carnaval’?
In Brazilian Portuguese, it’s written as ‘Carnaval’ but for the majority of the rest of the world, it’s written as ‘Carnival’; though both are correct!
How did Carnival start?
The first festivities of Carnival date all the way back to the early 1720’s. Carnival was the one week period, celebrated in “Carnival style”, before the start of Lent each year. During Lent, people of the Catholic & Christian faiths are known to fast for 6 weeks and generally no parties or celebrations can be held during this time. Therefore, to have a ‘pre-Lent Carnival’ more than makes up for the 6 weeks of absence to follow!
Which are the Carnival dates and why do they change every year?
Each year, Carnival falls on a different a date. It has to do with the Catholic calendar. As explained above, the original reason for celebrating Carnival is to eat, drink and be merry before Lent. So because the dates of Lent change every year, as do the dates of Carnival. The dates of Carnival can fall any time between February and March.
Carnival dates for the upcoming years are as follows:
Carnival 2020 – 21st February until 26th February
Carnival 2021 – 12th February until 17th February
Carnival 2022 – 15th February until 20th February
How is Carnival celebrated in different parts of Brazil?
It surprises some people to find out that Carnival is celebrated all over Brazil, not just in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. As it is a national holiday in Brazil, the whole of Brazil shuts down for the duration of Carnival week, with every town and city celebrating Carnival in their own unique way!
Rio and Sao Paulo put on huge week long samba parade competitions and some very impressive ‘blocos’ (street blocks of dancing party people!); Salvador creates some of the world’s biggest street party parades with trio-electricos (motorised floats carrying musicians and singers with some of the biggest sound speaker systems you will ever see!); Olinda (near Recife) is famous for having big fancy-dress street parties; and the small, historical towns of Minas Gerais host huge costume-themed blocos for the week long festivities, attracting thousands of young people from neighbouring Brazilian states.
What is up with the Carnival costumes and masks?
Every year, thousands and thousands of hours are dedicated to making the carnival costumes. Some costumes are elaborately covered in millions of beads, spangles and feathers, which are all put on by hand! Every year, each samba school comes up with a theme and dress accordingly. How costumes and masks end up looking has changed over the decades, be it due to economic, legal and/or political reasons. Especially in Rio, which is considered a very liberal place, costumes have become increasingly skimpy, which not only helps the samba dancers to move more freely but also gives some more comfort for the bright shining sun.
Download our free Rio 2020 Carnival Guide
If you have never experienced carnival in Brazil, or if you have and can’t wait to do it again, bamba offers amazing trips to both Rio de Janeiro and Salvador Carnivals. Don’t wait until the last minute to organise your trip to the best Street Party on Earth!