The carnival in Rio de Janeiro is often referred as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, it is certainly one big party which attracts visitors from different parts of the world. Though the celebration lasts five days from Saturday to Ash Wednesday the parade and parties are held 40 days prior to Easter.
Samba schools prepare for this event months in advance, the Carnival Designer (Carnavalesco) – the person in charge of the artistic work, production and directing the school’s parade sometimes will chose their theme and will design the costumes and elaborate floats which are manned by a large number of performers, dancers and musicians. The school’s samba song is selected in a competition and when they are ready, the sketches move into production, before Christmas they start rehearsing and then record the samba annual’s songs which are specifically written for that year.
The combination of samba beats and colourful costumes during the whole week, culminates at the Sambadrome (a spectator’s area seating approx. 70,000 people) where during carnival days you will have parades of different samba schools taking place. The party officially starts on Friday with the crowning of the Fat King ‘King Momo’ who is presented with a giant silver and gold key by Rio’s Mayor. King Momo’s role is not only opening the ceremony but he is also responsible for keeping the right party atmosphere and when King Momo tells you to dance, you dance!
In the afternoon the parade starts with the children’s samba schools. On Saturday the official parade starts with the samba school Group A however the top twelve samba schools will parade on Sunday and Monday. Each samba school will have 80 minutes to make their way through the parade route of almost half a mile – the school’s parade is thoroughly orchestrated. The first ones to go are the ‘wings’ – a group of approx 100 people wearing the same custome, in between the wings, there are about 8 huge carnival floats illustrating the samba school’s theme, some of these floats are pushed by men and some others are motorised, they carry special guests along samba dancers in lush costumes. Only one samba school will win, the winner will be selected by a panel of judges.
Carnival is very important to Brazilians, not only does it provide them with entertainment but it is also the opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together as one to have fun, this sums up their attitude to life perfectly.
There are a number of carnival balls going on in this city, there are parties everywhere and if you have a group of friends, it’s better to book a table or a box at one of these venues. Some of them attract celebrities and socialites like the famous Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel, their tradition dates back to the 20’s where party goers still wear tuxedos and extravagant dresses. In each neighbourhood in Rio there are also several Carnival street bands.
Numerous carnival celebrations take place in every corner of Brazil, the most notable ones are in Salvador – Bahia, Recife and Olinda however Rio has the biggest, and that says a lot about the cariocas (people from Rio) who work very hard for a year to create this entire show.
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Images courtesy of Blumar