CARNAVAL – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What is Carnaval?

“From the beautiful and sexy beaches of Rio de Janeiro to Rio Carnaval and the Rio Nightlife, the type of energy that the city of Rio emulates is just simply electrifying. The deliciously bronzed samba dancers, the pulsating music, the energy and applause of the spectators, Rio Carnaval attracts visitors from all corners the globe. Samba music can be heard coming from neighborhoods throughout the city and crowds gather to dance and play all day, night and straight into the next morning.”



Location Summary

Continent South America
Country Brazil
Capital City Brasilia
Event duration Every year, the Friday before Lent and ending on Ash Wednesday. (2/13/15-2/18/15)
Population Rio de Janeiro: 6.32 million

Brazil: 200.4 million

Religion Catholicism (51%)

Protestant (23%)

No belief (14%)

Spiritist (6%)

PPP $1 = 2.69 Reals

1 Real = $0.37

One of the most expensive cities for expatriates in South America

Safety 91/162 – 2014 Global Peace Index
Type of Culture Known as the Marvelous City. Vibrant, modern with heritage. Huge focus on tourism; most-visited city in the Southern Hemisphere. Federal Presidential Republic. Language: Portuguese.
Special Customs Relaxed and informal, not always punctual. Communication style is direct, close talking/touching. Well dressed/manicured. Late lunch and dinner after 2pm and 9pm. As a rule, Brazilians do not eat “on the go, they find it rude to eat in places that are not meant for dining.




2/12: Day One

            Meet host family, get to know them

            Learn about the history of the festival

            Check out favorite local spot, or cook with them

            Hit the sack early, get ready for festival!

2/13: Day Two

            Afternoon: Street bands along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches

            7 pm: Opening Ceremony, the Carnival King is crowned

            9 pm: Preliminary Samba Parades

            11 pm: Black Beads Party in Rio Scala

2/14: Day Three

            9:30 am:  Street Band Cordão do Bola Preta (Downtown)

            4 pm: Banda de Ipanema meets at Praça General Osório, Ipanema

            8 pm: Street Band Competition in Av. Rio Branco, Centro (Downtown)

            9 pm: Second day of the Preliminary Samba Parades

            11 pm: The Magic Ball at Copacabana Palace Hotel

            11 pm: Samba School Mangueira Ball in Rio Scala

2/15: Day Four

            Afternoon: Street bands along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches

            9 pm: Parade of the Samba Schools in the First League (the Special Group)

            11 pm: The Marvelous City Ball in Rio Scala

2/16: Day Five

            Afternoon: Street bands along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches

            9 pm: Parade of the Samba Schools in the First League (the Special Group)

            11 pm: Long Live the Beer Ball in Rio Scala

2/17: Day Six

            4 pm: Banda de Ipanema marches for the last time

            9 pm: Parade of the Children`s Samba Schools

            11 pm: Gay Ball in Rio Scala

2/18: Day Seven and beyond…

            Explore Rio!




Samba Parade: The highlight of Rio Carnaval. Preparation for the Samba Parade starts months in advance. The Rio Samba Parade is a fierce competition between the Rio samba schools. The judges and spectators watch the principal parades in the Sambodromo, which was built for Carnival.

Suggested dress code: If you are not marching in the Parade, you can wear whatever you want. People do not wear costumes just to watch the Parade, but many Rio people wear colorful outfits and shorts.

Samba City: Want to go behind the scenes? Opened in 2005, this is a recent project of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Every samba school has its own block within the compound to produce the Parade floats and many of the Samba Parade costumes. Visitors can tour the city to see how Rio Carnival is created.

Carnival Balls: Can be traced back to the famous masked balls of the world’s other carnival capital- Venice, Italy. Soon it became custom to conduct similar events in Rio during the Carnaval season. A true Carnaval ball features live music, and samba rules the dance floor.

Copacabana Palace Hotel: The epicenter of the Rio Carnaval world with its luxury Magic Ball. Luxury costume or black tie/evening dress is required, and a number of international and local VIPs are always among the guests.

Rio Scala nightclub: The main organizer with its thematic Rio Carnaval balls during the festival. Wearing a costume is not mandatory, but they are always welcome. The most popular Scala balls are the Gay Gala, the Black Beads Party, and the Long Live the Beer fest.

Samba School Nights: All Rio samba schools have a dance hall with live samba music played by drummers. Here you dance and learn the samba lyrics that will be sung during that school´s Parade. Mangueira is the biggest, safest and most famous school, with many tourists and lots of security.

Samba Land: Features dozens of food and drink stands and a variety live concerts.

Merry Making in Lapa: This free event takes place every night of Carnaval from about 8 pm to dawn around the Arches of Lapa. It features concerts ranging from traditional Brazilian music to the latest trends. Lots of alcohol and cheap food.

Street parties and bands: Free, open-air dances take place throughout the city. On Samba Parade nights, thousands of people gather on the streets before, during, and after the Parade, turning the whole Downtown area into a giant and lively open-air bar. Approximately 300 bands are expected for 2015 Carnaval.

Cariocas: The people of Rio.

Carnaval King (King Momo): Momo is the name of the god of mockery in Greek mythology, and according to Carnaval tradition, King Momo (the Carnaval King) should be jolly and as big as a house. Legend suggests that he was expelled from the Olympus to come and settle down in Rio, the City of Carnaval. The Rio Carnaval officially opens with the delivery of the key of the city to King Momo. When King Momo sambas, everything and everyone should samba with him. He opens all major Carnaval events including the Samba Parades.

Rio Cuisine: Rio offers a few signature dishes that you should try during your visit, including Feijoada, a spicy bean-and-pork stew usually served with sides including sliced oranges, stir-fried eggs and manioc flour, thinly sliced kale and white rice. The seafood is also amazing, of course. On the sidewalks near the beach, kiosks offer coconut water, corn on the cob, grilled shrimp, baked cheese rolls and other snacks. Or visit one of the many churrascarias, all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurants, for seasoned, hot-off-the-grill meats. Ready to imbibe? Try a Caipirinha – a traditional cocktail made with Brazilian sugarcane rum, lemon and sugar.

Christ the Redeemer statue: This Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ was erected in 1931 at the peak of Corcovado mountain. The statue weighs 635 metric tons and is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone. It is 98 ft. tall, not including its 26-ft. pedestal, and its arms stretch 92 ft. wide. It was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

Sugarloaf Mountain
: Rising 1,299 ft. above the Atlantic Ocean, this site offers unparalleled panoramic views of Rio. Sugarloaf Mountain has received over 37 million visitors since opening in 1912.
Background three


History of Carnaval

Although Carnaval is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the carnival capital of the world. Foreign visitors alone number around 500,000 every year.

This wild 5-day celebration starts on Friday and finishes on Fat Tuesday with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, after which one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnaval, with all its excesses, is essentially an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. It is usually in February, the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere, when summer is at its peak.

The roots of Carnaval trace back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated the rites of spring. Across Europe, including France, Spain and Portugal, people annually gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks and dancing in the streets. Such traditions were carried over to the New World.

The Portuguese first brought the concept of Carnaval to Rio around 1850. The practice of holding balls and masquerade parties was imported by the city’s bourgeoisie from Paris. Groups of people would parade through the streets playing music and dancing, and aristocrats would dress up as commoners, men would cross-dress as women and the poor dress up as princes and princesses.

As Carnaval evolved in Rio, the tradition acquired unique elements deriving from African and Amerindian cultures. The black slaves became actively involved in the celebrations and were set free for three days. Nowadays the area’s black communities are still some of the most involved groups in the Carnaval preparations.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Carnival in Rio was musically a very European-centric affair – Polkas, Waltzes, and Mazurkas. Meanwhile, the emergent working class (made up mainly of Afro Brazilians, along with some gypsies, Russian Jews, Poles etc.) developed its own music and rhythm. These people were mostly based in the central part of Rio, an area which came to be known as ‘Little Africa’ that is recognized as the cradle of samba. Now, almost all the music played during Rio Carnaval is samba.

By the end of the 18th century the festivities were enriched by competitions. People would not just dress up in costumes but also perform a parade accompanied by an orchestra of strings, drums and other instruments. These competitions became the main attraction of the Carnaval in Rio.

The primary music of Carnaval, the word samba comes from the Angolan world semba referring to a type of ritual music. The word had a variety of meanings to the African slaves brought to Brazil during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It meant to pray or invoke the spirits of the ancestors and the gods of the African Pantheon. As a noun, it could mean a complaint, a cry, or something like “the blues.”

Images from Rio De Janeiro's crazy Carnival060322_brazil_carnival_hmed5p.grid-6x2

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