Carnival is an ancient tradition that dates back to 600 to 520 BC. After the catholic church made it into a religious celebration, it quickly spread to the whole world. The first city to celebrate carnival as we know today was Paris.
That was all too long ago! No other city has a carnival like Rio de Janeiro does. When it’s carnival the streets get packed with happy and fun people, ready to have fun in a very light-hearted way. Singing, dancing, drinking and wearing the typical Carnival costumes. It’s a one in a lifetime experience that lack words to describe it.
The called “Samba schools” are organized groups that train the whole year just to fill the city with music and happiness when it’s carnival. These professionals put a lot of work and effort in their projects. In most cities (Like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), there are specific places where the samba schools go out on huge parades that normally last 1 hour and 20 minutes for each school.
In Rio it’s the main event for Carnival. The schools have parades on the “Sambodromo” and compete against each other for the judge ratings. All the parades have a theme that range from: Black history, slavery, food, toys, Brazilian culture, Famous people, movies and so much more. The costumes and lyrics are made following the school theme, which changes every year.
The “blocos” are more humble parades organized by Cariocas. Blocos go around the city streets filling it with music and fun. Most people go using costumes but that is not mandatory. Only a few blocos have themes, the themes tend to be way simpler than the school ones.
The most famous blocos have themes like: Every male should go dressed as a female, everyone should go wearing white shirt with black dots on them, and other simple ideas. One bloco that got really famous last year was the “Sargento Pimenta” that would play Beatles songs as samba.
There are two different kind of blocos.
1. The ones that are set to happen in a specific spot and stays there until the end.
2. The ones are marked to happen in a specific spot in the city and then moves to a set destination, filling the streets with music on their way.
Tips for surviving in Carnival
1: Do not go to blocos using big bags or backpacks, in blocos the human heat is too strong and you will get tired easily.
2: Keep a bottle of water so you can hydrate yourself while you party.
3: Do not urinate in the streets. It’s a normal act to do in Brazil, but it’s against the law. During carnival many public toilets are scattered through the city to avoid this.
4: If the heat is too much for you try not going out during daytime. Look for blocos and parades that happen during the afternoon or overnight.