Brazil's tradition of throwing wild carnivals early in the year is one that was imported along with the colonial Portuguese, adopted and streamlined into today's world-famous Brazilian event of the year. Carnival stems from a Catholic Church spring thanksgiving celebration dating from the Middle Ages in Europe. Carnival is always held four or five days before Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. When the fun-loving Portuguese colonised Brazil they instituted Carnival as a period of abandoned merriment and street pranks. In 1840 the Italian wife of a Rio de Janeiro hotelier formalised the carnival celebration by hiring musicians and giving a lavish masked ball. Today each city in Brazil celebrates Carnival in its own style, but the crème de la crème of Carnival celebrations is the one held in Rio, where the focus is on the colourful parade of the samba schools, which comes with extravagant floats, brilliant costumes, magical music and amazingly energetic dancers. The action takes place in the Sambodromo, a half-mile long path built specifically for the event in 1984. At the end of the parade the samba schools perform for an hour each in front of stands packed with spectators, vying for the judges' favour and the championship title. Carnival time is also a time for street parties and elaborate night-long costume balls, which are held in the top hotels.
Venue: Samba Parade: Sambadrome. Street carnival takes place in different neighbourhoods
Date: 13-16 February 2015