The Carnival of Rio De Janeiro

The Carnival of Rio De Janeiro (70)

What does Rio's Carnival embody that everyone vibrates with it?  Is it maybe due to its catchy rhythms, its beautiful samba dancers, the multitudinous batucadas, colourful costumes and the wonderful and huge floats that are decorated so as to evoke imaginary paradises, despite not lifting one's feet off the floor of the city of Rio? It is all that and much more ... It is a party, tradition and, above all, a unique experience for anyone who can enjoy Carnival in The Marvellous City.

From the Latin "carne levare" (farewell to meat), the celebration period and dates can easily be related thanks to the liturgical calendar. The exact dates of Rio's Carnival change every year, but it always begins seven weeks before Easter Sunday.

But the party in Rio during Carnival does not span the four official celebration days, but it lasts nearly two weeks. Charangas invade the streets of all city districts, filling them with lots of colour and music, parades and dances one week before the start of Rio's highly expected carnival.

In fact, carnival celebrations have been followed massively over the centuries. Rio de Janeiro's carnival has its roots both in Europe and in Africa. In Europe, it was a pagan festival from ancient Rome as a tribute to the gods. During the celebration of the famous Saturnalia in honour of Bacchus, the masters and Roman soldiers exchanged clothes in a state of intoxication that is also reminiscent of the Greek celebration in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and grape harvest. Later on, the Roman Catholic Church adopted this celebration as a prelude to abstinence to purify the body of the faithful during Lent. Time passed and carnival became a popular festival, where people wore masks and danced on the streets. 

The first celebration of carnival in Rio dates back to the 1840s, following the introduction of the custom in Brazil by the Portuguese. The parties at that time, tinged with a more European air with its masks, dresses, as well as waltzes and polkas, were more like Venetian carnivals, very different from the current image Rio's carnival represents worldwide.

But, soon, carnival mixed with African slave culture, its dances came into contact with other musical genres and incorporated them, when samba music and dance emerged.

Africans settled in Brazil started using costumes that relate more to the current costumes of Rio's carnival. Including feathers, stones and even herbs to invoke the gods and drive away evil spirits was key, together with the incorporation of samba in 1917 as official celebration music, to turn Rio de Janeiro's carnival into the eccentric, colourful and crowded party everyone knows.

Rio's carnival is considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh; all excesses are allowed within a festive atmosphere that takes place throughout the city.

Each year the city is revving, just over two months before the start of carnival in Rio de Janeiro, with the holding of open rehearsals of some troupes and, especially, with the election of their kings.

Carnival officially begins with the coronation of King Momo, an event in which the mayor of Rio hands over symbolically the city keys to the character that is considered the owner of carnival. This popular public figure, which is so important for carnival and is directly related to the Greek god of sarcasm and ironic wit, has been maintained since 1933, whereas every year it is usually chosen during an important contest. It is usually embodied by a tall and, generally, "strong" man, who must show all the joy, eccentricity, dance and strength that Rio's carnival deserves. 

King Momo is accompanied during all the festivities by the Carnival Queen and the two Princesses. They are also chosen during a contest, in which, besides demonstrating their beauty and charm, they must be cheerful and perfectly master samba.

As a curiosity and according to legend, when King Momo was expelled from Olympus, he went to live in Rio, and every year he opens the carnival parades dancing. "When King Momo dances, everyone must dance", so do not stop your feet when the King of Carnival starts moving his to the rhythm of samba.

In fact, if you are extremely lucky and able to visit Rio during carnival, you are going to enjoy a unique setting, in which you may experience firsthand the welcoming and cheerful atmosphere that characterises Rio's inhabitants. For, beyond the main parade, which takes place in the "Sambadrome",  Rio boasts hundreds of "samba venues", where people celebrate carnival. The blocos de rua, i.e. groups of different districts in Rio, which organise parades of smaller schools, where racial or cultural differences disappear for a few days and all hearts beat to the rhythm of samba, elated by the best carnival party in the world.

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