Get excited because this is the first post of a new weekly series called, “Better Know Brazil” in which I will highlight fun facts and random aspects of this amazing country.
This week, I felt I had no choice but to discuss… CARNIVAL!
Where does it come from? Traditionally, on certain days of Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry. The term “carnival,” from carnelevare, literally means “to remove meat.”
Today: Carnival celebrations happen all over the world leading up to the season of Lent (in the US, the big celebration is obviously Mardi Gras in New Orleans), however the Brazilian celebration of Carnival is the biggest, most well-known celebration in the world. The main event for Brazilians occurs in Rio de Janeiro, but São Paulo and the other cities definitely get in on the action as well.
What happens? In Rio and São Paulo, there are enormous parades organized by local samba schools. The schools perform and compete with each other as they sing and dance down the streets wearing the most ornate, unbelievable costumes alongside outrageous floats that they all construct.
There are also major block parades and other festivities. It is said that during Carnival, Brazil receives 70% of it’s annual tourists and this week accounts for 80% of annual alcohol consumption.
Carnival is such a major holiday for Brazil, and because the main event occurs in Rio, when Michael and I arrived in São Paulo last week, the city was already starting to get quiet since everyone gets out of town for vacations. On Monday and Tuesday of this week everything was closed for Carnival, and today many things (including Michael’s office) are still closed for a “recover-from-Carnival” day. Seriously. We have been following the celebrations on TV (which are being shown 24/7) and hopefully next year we’ll be able to partake in some ourselves. A common greeting / farewell during this time is “Bom Carnaval” which means “Good Carnival” (think, “Merry Christmas”).
So, on that note, Bom Carnaval!