Carnival is celebrated in many different cities and countries, but Rio de Janeiro is well recognized as the Carnival’s Capital of the World. This huge celebration is the main event of the year and attracts thousands of tourists from all the corners of the world. Even though the official carnival of Rio lasts only four days, the street parades and the celebrations last for almost two weeks. The exact dates of Carnival in Rio change every year but it is always seven weeks before Eastern Sunday. You may consider this when planning your trip to Rio.
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Rio's Carnival has roots in both Europe and Africa. In Europe, it was a pagan celebration in ancient Rome, as a tribute to the gods. Later the Roman Catholic Church turned it into the “Carne Vale” which was the initiation of a period for purifying the body. The time passed and the “Carne Vale” became a party for ordinary people who started wearing masks and dancing in the streets. With the arrival of the Portuguese the Carnival spread throughout Brazil, and in Rio de Janeiro it mixed with the African culture of the slaves, where the samba music and dancing emerged. The Brazilian carnival became the unique festival where the social roles and class differences were expected to be forgotten.
The Carnaval of Rio is the greatest popular party in the world. Carnival is considered as an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh; all excesses are allowed in the party atmosphere which takes place all over the city. The most remarkable cultural expressions of Rio's Carnival are the exploding rhythms, the colorful costumes, the magnificent Carnival floats and the amazing dancers of samba. The samba schools usually have six to eight floats and thousands of participants. The main parade in Rio’s Carnival is held in the “sambodrome”, which is a huge stage area with seats for 100,000 people. This parade is a competition where hundreds of samba schools participate in a unique festive atmosphere. Each school chooses a theme, writes music and lyrics, and works hard throughout the year in order to make their best performance at the parade.
Some of the most important roles in the samba school include the "porta-bandeira" and the "mestre-sala". The porta-bandeira is a very important lady who is in charge of the samba school’s flag and she is accompanied by the mestre-sala, who is supposed to draw everyone’s attention to "his queen".
Besides the main samba parade which takes place in the “Sambadrome”, Rio has hundreds of “samba blocks” where all the smaller schools participate in different parades. Each neighborhood in Rio has its favorite Carnival street band. During these euphoric days, the street festivities are very common and are highly populated by locals. There are many parties taking place before, during and after Carnival in Rio, all day and night, some of them in the streets, some in the beaches and others inside the nightclubs. Carnival in the streets is a living proof of this passion.
It is recommended for tourists to organize their accommodation, book the flights and also buy the Carnival tickets in advance.
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