History of Carnival in Brazil

Carnival is one of the best-known parties, and it´s in Rio de Janeiro where it´s held the largest Carnival celebrations in the world. It’s filled with music, parades, parties and people having the time of their lives. The carnival, a national holiday in Brazil, runs from Friday night to noon of the following Wednesday. That’s the official length, but many Brazilians turn it into a 10-day holiday. It brings in about half a million foreign tourists each year.

Carnival is a popular festival that has emerged in antiquity intending to celebrate the pagan gods and nature. Was recognized by the church and included in the Christian calendar after many centuries, today is celebrated worldwide. Has different characteristics in each country that celebrates.

The carnival celebrated in Brazil was influenced by a street party, of Portuguese origin, the Entrudo (Shrovetide), which was to play flour, egg and paint in people. But the celebration has also undergone changes because of indigenous folklore and African culture, brought by slaves. All these cultural factors built a distinct carnival in every part of Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is famous for the samba schools parade, in Bahia, Sound Trucks (Trios Eletricos in Portuguese) attract millions of people every year and in other states, such as Pernambuco and Minas Gerais, the street carnival is the most popular.

There are other traditional ways of celebrating the carnival, which is the last party before Lent. In the thirteenth century, the French nobles began to promote large parties where guests were required to wear masks and luxurious clothes – the balls – and probably that’s how costume parties started. These parties soon became popular among the upper classes throughout Europe and have spread throughout the world, currently being common.

The Carnival Origin

The origin of the carnival is uncertain, but is believed to have arisen in Greece around the year 520 BC. It was a party in which the wine was essential and the people gathered in the name of god Dionysus with the sole intention to have fun, celebrate the arrival of spring and fertility. This type of celebration became popular in Rome during the first centuries of the Christian era.

Carnival name comes from “Carne Vale”, its meaning is linked to the fact that this pagan festival happen during the three days preceding Lent, a long period of deprivation, so it was like a farewell of sins of the flesh. This name came about after the celebration was legalized by the Catholic Church to curb what the institution classified as sinful celebration. That is, the celebration had as main objective to vent and do everything that was forbidden during Lent.

In 1545, after the Council of Trent, Julian’s calendar was switched by the Gregorian’s calendar, and the Carnival has become an official date for Catholic Christians. Thus, it is recognized as a popular street party that suffered a series of cultural changes up to the present day.

History of Carnival in Brazil

The carnival arrived in Brazil starting on the eighteenth century, when the Portuguese brought the game of Entrudo (Shrovetide) in 1723 , typical of the Azores and Cape Verde region, which consisted of a game in which people littered each other with paint, flour, eggs and also throwing water. No one, even royalty, was immune from being drenched. It was eventually outlawed because the authorities didn’t like to see so many people losing control.

In the nineteenth century were promoted Parisians dances, in which the guests should wear masks. Grew interest in this kind of party because the Shrovetide caused much confusion because it is a practice which called for violence. At the balls, taking place indoors, the audience was made up of guests who were willing to dress up and listen to music. An important figure of this period is Chiquinha Gonzaga who composed carnival songs and belonged to this bourgeois class group frequenter of the balls.

In the mid-19th century, Jose Nogueira de Azevedo was a shoemaker who marched through the streets on Carnival Monday playing drums, tambourines and whistles. He welcomed anyone who wanted to join in his march. This eventually became Ze Pereira, name for this types of Street Paties with drums. The “Grandes Sociedades” debuted in 1855 as a parade for aristocrats. About 80 members of the upper class, including the emperor, would wear masks and elaborate costumes and parade through town to the beat of music. In 1870, characters were introduced to the festivities, who would perform according to the costume they were given; other participants began to wear oversized papier-mache masks.

In Rio de Janeiro, the twentieth century brought the first samba schools. The parade of floats in today’s Carnival celebration began as an event called Corso in 1907. At that time, it was a parade of cars, a relatively new invention at the time, through the city. Parade watchers brought streamers and confetti to throw. Another portion of the modern Carnival is the Ranchos Carnavalescos, which began in 1872 but became popular in 1911. In a Ranchos Carnavalescos, participants dressed up in costumes and performed during the parade accompanied by music played by musicians. Their popularity grew as each Ranchos Carnvalesco competed with the others to become more elaborate and entertaining. They are now one of the most popular parts of Carnival. The only time the parades were halted was during WWII, but they resumed in 1947.

At the end of the 1920s, the Samba parade became the most popular Carnival celebration, still very strong until nowadays, both in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

The samba, which is the primary music of Rio’s Carnival, was born in Rio. The samba is a ritual Candomble dance to drums and handclaps. At the end of the 19th Century, Tia Ciata, a Candomble priestess, used to have meetings in her home where live music was played while, in the backyard, others danced the samba. The two musical beats eventually combined to form what we call the samba today. The first song that was called a samba was composed in Tia Ciata’s house.

In the Northeast of Brazil, the most popular way to spend the carnival is to go to the streets, keeping a bit of tradition brought by the Portuguese. In Bahia, more specifically remained the custom of the street carnival, but strengthened the electric trios (trucks) after the 1980s.

How the Carnival Holiday Dates are calculated ?

This calculation was stipulated that there be no coincidence with the day of Catholic Easter and that it did not occur on the same day of the Passover. So, it begins with the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, from it you need to know on which day will be the first full moon because Easter is celebrated exactly on Sunday after this moon. That is, it is known that Tuesday’s Carnival is one that precedes Easter in 47 days. In Brazil, the date is celebrated in the fall, then starts counting from March 21, day of the equinox in the southern hemisphere.

Future Carnival Dates

– 06Feb – 10Feb 
– 25feb – 01Mar
2018 – 10Feb – 14Feb
2019 – 02Mar – 06Mar
– 22Feb – 26Feb
2021 – 13Feb – 17Feb
– 26Feb – 02Mar
– 18Feb – 22Feb
– 10Feb – 14Feb

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