Rio Carnival: An Overview
What is Carnival all about ?
Just like in everything else, you will be able to appreciate the culture of Rio Carnival if you know a lot about its history and meaning. Besides, knowledge is one of the best ways to impress your friends.
It’s a Samba Competition
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is totally different from the other carnivals or festivals held in different parts of the world. There is always a history related. And that is what they show to the public thru a samba competition, the Carnival parade. For a whole year they prepare the floats, the costumes, the music, after a theme that is chosen between the main organizers, the Carnavalescos.
Virtually all local communities have their own samba schools, and all the community works together for this competition that happens once every year. The parade is divided into two groups, each one with 12 Samba Schools – they are the special group and the access group.
Those who belong to the special group are the main attraction of the festival. Their parade lasts for two days, Sunday and Monday, each one with the same set of performers. The access group, on the other hand, are the schools that would like to win to have the chance to compete for the special group next year. They only perform once, the Saturday before the special group parades.
They perform in the Sambadrome, which was created in 1984 and consists of approximately 700 meters of permanent grounds for the parades. It is actually a complex of streets, including the famous Praça da Apoteose at the end, which every year is closed and converted into one big runaway with bleachers. It can fit up to 72,500 people in one sitting.
Its Religious Connotation
Brazil is country of very religious people, majority of the country is Catholic. A lot of them believe that the Carnival is more than just a samba competition. It has something to do with the spiritual.
The Carnival dates change every year, depending on when the Easter Sunday is going to be held. The carnival is 40 days before the Easter Sunday. The entire festival lasts 4 to 5 days—though it can be extended for a week—usually ending on Fat Tuesday. The day after that is already Ash Wednesday, day that the people usually take to rest before coming back to work the next day.
Thus, the performances of the people who are really part of the Carnival, on the parade or on the streets, usually described to be truly sexy and wild, are considered to be their way of releasing themselves from the desires of the flesh, so they could spend the next days, the Lenten season, in prayer and reverence.
You Can Dance
You may also believe that the Rio Carnival is only meant for the Brazilians. The truth is that anyone can dance and participate in the parade. You just need to book your trip in advance and buy yourself a costume. There are already a number of websites, like http://www.brazilbookers.com that sell the samba school costumes beforehand, and you can have the clothing sent directly to your hotel upon your arrival in Rio.
Costumes for the access and the special group will be available. You are not complied to participate in the rehearsals, which will last for about 8 months, but you should be within the venue at least 2 hours, so they can teach you some of the routines, and help you with your costume if you need. It also good if you can enrol yourself in a samba school in your area before you travel to Brazil.
Indeed, the beauty of the Carnival is that it has a huge coverage, in a lot of aspects. It can be religious or simply a strict competition. Regardless, it is all about having fun and forget about the daily worries.