One cannot deny that Carnival is the most famous and biggest Brazilian popular festival. When February comes, few are the people who do not in some way participate in the celebration, or are not happy with the few days off work that Carnival brings with it.
This year of 2016, Carnival starts earlier, with Carnival Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) being on 9 February – the date is movable, following the Catholic calendar that states that Shrove Tuesday occurs 47 days before Easter.
The Carnival parades and balls that take place throughout the country are already putting the final touches in for the costumes, songs and floats so that everything is perfect. In general, there is always some type of contest taking place, and everyone wishes to be the highlight of the ball.
However, the spirit of Brazilian Carnival that is contagious and catches on to tourists that come to Brazil is, first and foremost, created by the spontaneity and happiness of the people. This is a festive period in which much of the population is on holiday (the schools are closed for the summer break), the sun shines almost every day, and happiness quickly spreads to the revellers in the streets.
Proof of this fact lies in the records that have been conquered by the Brazilian Carnival, according to the Guinness Book of World Records: the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the largest of its kind in the world, taking some 2 million people to the streets every day; and the Galo da Madrugada carnival group is also the largest Carnival group in the world – and you can easily join it along the streets of the Pernambucan capital Recife.
Carnival brings popular and Afro-Brazilian culture to the streets of the country
Even though the tradition of Carnival has been around for a long time, this party has become a unique opportunity to open the central stage to popular and Afro-Brazilian culture which is still largely marginalized by some segments of Brazilian society.
It is during Carnival that the rhythms and the styles of these facets of Brazilian culture go out onto the streets and take the place of the élites. The blocks present in this big party open their wings to spontaneity, and you can choose the one you feel most identified with, acquire your float, and then let happiness take over your day.
If you prefer, you can also buy tickets to watch the impressive and luxurious samba school parade, which is more like an enormous musical in the open air. Another option is that of acquiring tickets for the special boxes (known as camarotes) and seeing everything from above with comfort and privacy.
The duration of the party and its style largely depend on the city you choose: the partying can get under way in January with the pre-Carnival parades in Recife, where you shall appreciate the local styles of frevo and maracatu; then have six days in Salvador, Bahia, where everything takes place in the street and to the beat of samba-reggae, axé music and a lot more; and then the three days of the official samba parades in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, among other Brazilian cities.