Mardi gras in Brazil

Lively music, vibrant colors, along with the wonderful spectacle form the carnival that is celebrated for a week long in Brazil. It commences on Friday and continues till Wednesday and is accompanied by a large number of street parties and many other events along with the main attraction of the Samba Parade held in Sambadrome.

The party, also known as the Mardi Gras, fills the streets of Brazil with a thrilling vibe and bright costumes. If this sounds exciting to you and you feel like attending the festival this time, here’s everything you need to know before you go.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. A short glimpse of Mardi Gras Carnival in Brazil 

In the 1830s, this carnival began to carry on the Portuguese tradition that dealt with celebration and enjoyment of the days before the beginning of the lent. Lent is the period of 46 days observed by the Roman Catholics. During the late 18th century, street music and dance were introduced in the carnival along with themed costumes and the custom that dealt with the election of the carnival’s “king”. Brazil's Rio de Janeiro has the most popular carnival celebrations featuring more than 100 parades, many among which are by the students and staffs of the Samba schools of the city. The favelas or the poorest members of the city influences this Rio’s carnival. They are from the local Samba schools, who participate in large numbers in the group performances of this carnival. Among them, the famous are the Bande de Ipanama, Cordao de Bola Preta, and Carmelitas. Every neighbourhood of the city has their own street bands, and more than 300 bands participate in the carnival. The celebration being the result of months of preparations brings different types of culture together. 

2. The cultural clash between Portuguese and Africans gave rise to Mardi Gras Carnival

The basis of the genesis of this carnival had its roots in a cultural conflict between two communities -  Portuguese and Africans. It was the whites who brought this festival from Europe while the Blacks had their music, rhythms and dance moves. They gradually created the tradition to go on the street once a year and party together. Thus merging all the customs and musical styles together. Only in the year 1917, this process paved the way for the invention of the samba dance form which is a product of mutual love for the music of former slaves and colonists. In Rio de Janeiro, the first schools teaching samba were established in the early 1920s. This carnival turns social conventions upside down just for a few days of the year, when appearing to be someone or something else are allowed. The poor are allowed to wear premium costumes, the rich can play common folks, men wear women’s dresses, women can use revealing clothes. This carnival in Brazil provides limitless options to everyone. 

3. The carnival in Rio de Janeiro is magical 

The city Rio reflects an electrifying energy during this carnival. The samba dancers, the music, the applause and energy of the audience and visitors from across the world can take anyone to a fantasy world.  Every year this carnival leading up to the Lent attracts visitors from all over the world. The anticipation of the carnival builds as the days come closer. This being one of the favourite holiday celebrations in Rio is very popular among the masses. Every individual residing in Brazil waits for this carnival to arrive. The energy and the smiles of the locals make the city glow. The samba music is played in every neighbourhood throughout the city making crowds gather and dance all day, night. 

4. Rio carnival events and programs

12 of the most elite samba schools of Rio De Janeiro participate in the very popular Sambadrome parades on carnivals that take place on Sunday and Monday. However, other 15 samba schools participate the parade on the Samba runway on Friday and Saturday. All year round preparations go on for the carnival, rehearsals by the schools take place at the Sambadrome before few weeks of the carnival. The starting of the rehearsal is just the sign of the beginning of the most beautiful, extravagant and appealing carnival. The world watches the carnival on television sets. The spirit and the energy of the celebration can transcend the television boxes and captivate all viewers watching it. 

5. It’s hard for the party to stop 

Everything comes to a halt during the four days of the carnival. Every neighborhood of Brazil celebrates the arrival of the carnival with the same passion. People singing samba songs dance on the streets. Everyone gathers together and they have fun as they enjoy the balls, parades on the streets and excitement of the Sambadrome. Brazilians during this time do not make any distinction between foreigners and locals, they welcome everyone. In fact, visitors get a place on the main strip along with the participants from the samba schools. All the visitor needs is a specific school’s costumes. 

6. The crowd’s favourite is Porta Bandeira 

These samba schools have women as the head. They are endowed with not only the job of conquering the spectator’s hearts, which is comparatively easy but those of the judges present in the carnival. The Porta Bandeira is the showstopper of the carnival. She, wearing intricate, sequin, feathered costumes, enters the samba strip and the crowd cheers, and stands as she proceeds with some of the most appealing samba steps. Mestre sala is the protector of the Porta Bandeira whose job is to watch and guide her on the parade route. The Mastre Sala armed with a knife guards her so that she does not feel disturbed by any activities of the other Samba schools that may cause her to lose points. The couple adorned with elaborate costumes give the visitors a glimpse of the nobility of the eighteenth century. The Porta Bandeira is supposed to dance as well as interact with the audience. She must stay away from the flag she is carrying so that it does not touch her, else her troupe might lose the points. After that, the floats arrive with attractive women dancing sensually in short dresses and they are accompanied by participants of the samba schools or “alas”.

7. The competition goes on for four nights 

Each samba schools are given 80 minutes to perform parade on the strip. The carnival starts with the opening ceremony, where Rio’s mayor crowns King Momo. It is in the evening, the flow for the next four days of celebration with an music, dance, arts and theaters is set by a children’s parade.

8. Prepare yourself

If you are desiring for a vacation in Rio during this time, do not forget to plan well before time so that you can experience and witness the best of the Brazilian culture.


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