Wordtravels

Wordtravels

Rio Carnival

Portela samba school © Leandro Neumann Ciuffo
Portela samba school © Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

Brazil's tradition of starting the year with a wild carnival began with the colonial Portuguese, adopted and streamlined into today's world-famous Brazilian event of the year. Carnival stems from a Catholic 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 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. The colourful parade of samba schools is accompanied by extravagant floats, brilliant costumes, magical music and amazingly energetic dancers. The action takes place along 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 usually held in the top hotels.

Venue: Samba Parade: Sambadrome. Street carnival takes place in different neighbourhoods

Date: 23 - 28 February 2017