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Carnival of Brazil: the most popular festival in the country

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The most popular and best known fastival in Brazil is the famous Carnival (Carnaval do Brasil). A holiday linked to Easter and the period of Lent. The Carnival takes place over four days between Friday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The end of the Carnival marks the beginning of Lent, that is, the 40-day penance period preceding Easter.


The Carnival party has a historical origin. Its roots can in fact be found in the pagan festival of the Saturnalia, a cycle of festivities of the Roman religion, which were connected to the god Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, the god of abundance and fertility. In the days of the Saturnalia the social order was subverted and slaves could behave like free men. The ancient pagan festival adapted to Catholicism became a short period of celebration to bid farewell to bad things and renew itself through Lent through fasting and repentance. The word “carnival” derives from the Latin term “carnis levale”, that is “remove the meat”. Which precisely indicates the fact that at the end of the days of Carnival the days of fasting and repentance of Lent will begin, during which Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry.

The Carnival of Brazil is an important part of Brazilian culture, and this festival is undoubtedly the most felt by the population who pours into the streets to dance and celebrate. The historical origin of this holiday in Brazil dates back to 1641, when Portugal freed itself from Spanish control and the coronation of the new King John IV of Portugal – which took place on December 15, 1640 – was celebrated in the streets of Rio de Janeiro with of musical processions called “préstitos”.


Carnival is today the largest cultural folklore event in Brazil: rhythm, participation and customs vary from one region to another in the country. The best known and most famous Carnival in the world is that of Rio de Janeiro, but every city in the country has its own Carnival. Large parades are often organized by samba schools, and the public observes the parades in special sambodromes. But in many locations there are parades that allow audience participation. In the Brazilian Nordeste – where Carnival is also influenced by African-Brazilian culture – organized groups parade through the streets and the crowd interacts directly with them.

The typical music of Carnival varies from city to city: in the south-east of the country – and in particular in the city of Rio de Janeiro – samba dominates, in its samba-enredo, samba de bloco, samba de embalo and marchinha variants. In the Nordeste – and particularly in Pernambuco and in Bahia – the musical genres are frevo, maracatu, samba-reggae and Axé music. The Carnival period has become one of the most popular of the year by tourists who come from all over the world to Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Fortaleza, Recife and other Brazilian cities to admire the colors and celebrations of this spectacular event of the culture and folklore of Brazil.

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