M&R Tours Blog

January 2, 2012

Rio de Janeiro Carnival, February 2012

 Rio de Janeiro Carnival February 18 to 22 2012- Winners Parade February 25 2012

Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World. The Rio Carnaval is not only the biggest Carnival, it as also a benchmark against which every other carnival is compared and one of the most interesting artistic events on the Globe. Almost everyone has heard of the Rio Carnaval. Foreign visitors to it alone number around 500,000 every year.

Almost all of the music played during Rio Carnival is samba. It is a uniquely Brazilian music originating from Rio, a dance form that was invented by the poor Afro-Brazilians.The word samba comes from the Angolan world semba referring to a type of ritual music. The word had a variety of meanings to the African slaves brought to Brazil during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It meant to pray or invoke the spirits of the ancestors and the gods of the African Pantheon. As a noun, it could mean a complaint, a cry, or something like “the blues”.

One of the greatest elements of the Rio Carnaval is that it not only provides entertainment for many people around the world but it also gives a chance to learn about the true culture of Brazil. Carnival is very important to the Brazilians, it sums up their culture.

It is a euphoric event where people dance, sing, party and have tons of fun. There are many parties that take place before, during and after Carnival all night and all day. It allows someone’s true heart to come out and have as much fun as possible.

Rio Carnival is the result of months of preparation. People eagerly anticipate the start of each year’s Rio Carnival. It begins with the crowning of the Fat King (King Momo), who is presented with a giant silver and gold key by the city’s mayor.

Then it is Carnival all over the place, in the streets and squares, bars, clubs and all other venues, taking over the whole city of Rio and culminating in the Rio Carnival Parade also known as the Samba Parade.

Coming to Rio Carnival means a bit of preparation. You should not only book ahead your flight and accommodation but buy your Rio Carnival tickets in advance, too. Study the Rio Carnival 2011 event calendar and pick the ones you intend to attend. Try to organize your accommodation well in advance and get your costumes for the Samba Parade.
After all the preparation work just come, dive in and enjoy it all!

The samba schools entertain the community through samba nights and create a pageant for the Samba Parade. They have to pick themes, write music and lyrics, make costumes and floats and practice all year around to succeed in the Parade.The samba schools are vital elements of Rio Carnival. They are social clubs representing a particular neighborhood, usualy a working class community of the slums (favelas). They have a samba hall to entertain and practice their samba, and a separate production unit to make their costumes and floats for their Rio Carnival Parade.

Rio Carnival History
The roots of Carnival trace back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated the rites of spring. Across Europe, including France, Spain and Portugal, people annually gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks and dancing in the streets. Such traditions were carried over to the New World.

The Portuguese first brought the concept of “celebration or carnival” to Rio around 1850. The practice of holding balls and masquerade parties was imported by the city’s bourgeoisie from Paris. However, in Brazil, the traditions soon became different. Over time, they acquired unique elements deriving from African and Amerindian cultures.

Groups of people would parade through the streets playing music and dancing. It was usual that during Carnival aristocrats would dress up as commoners, men would cross-dress as women and the poor dress up as princes and princesses – social roles and class differences were expected to be forgotten once a year but only for the duration of the festival.

Brazilians used to riot the Carnival until it was accepted by the government as an expression of culture. The black slaves became actively involved in the celebrations. They were able to be free for three days. Nowadays the slums’ black communities are still the most involved groups in all the carnival preparations and they are the ones for whom Rio Carnival means the most.

By the end of the 18 century the festivities were enriched by competitions. People would not just dress up in costumes but also perform a parade accompanied by an orchestra of strings, drums and other instruments. These ever more organized competitions became the main attractions of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, street carnival in Rio was musically a very euro centric affair – Polkas, Waltzes, Mazurkas and ‘Scottish’. Meanwhile, the emergent working class (made up mainly of Afro Brazilians, along with some gypsies, Russian Jews, Poles etc.) developed their own music and rhythm. These people were mostly based in the central part of Rio, on a land that the rich did not want – on the hills and swamps behind the dockyards – an area which came to be known as ‘Little Africa’ now recognized as the cradle of samba.

The parades were halted during World War II and started again in 1947. By then the main competition took place downtown on Avenida Rio Branco.

Carnival has gone a long way since it was brought to Rio, having become one of the biggest events in the World. One of the most important recent developments was that the biggest parade the Samba Parade moved from the streets downtown to the purpose-built Sambodromo.

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