Easily one of the most celebrated and exhilarating events worldwide is the Rio Carnival, in Rio de Janeiro. Occurring each year, 40 days before Easter, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the streets of Rio to partake in what is known as the “whole planet carnival”, partying in wildly colorful costumes and rocking to the beat of samba music. If ever there were a festival to attend, the Rio Carnival is it. But be forewarned, it’s not for the casual observer.
The roots of this annual celebration can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used to celebrate the rites of spring. It is the Portuguese, however, who are credited with bringing the concept of the carnival to Rio back in 1850. Over the years, the event has evolved into a rich mixture of culture and expression, and has now become a four-day long extravaganza filled with brilliant costumes, electrifying parades and titillating ethnic music.
The immense planning for the carnival takes practically the entire previous year, and the festivities are not confined just to the streets. Celebrations take place all over Brazil, in bars, clubs and other venues, where people gather to party day and night, seemingly infected with the electricity and excitement that permeates the entire country during that time.
The Rio Carnival Parade, also known as the Samba Parade, is the culmination of the event, during which people from all walks of life join together to let loose and party. A smorgasbord of cultures and social classes unite, from the poorest residents to famous actors, from gays and drag queens to dazzling samba dancers, all gather to the delight of the near half million tourists who travel to take part in the most famous carnival on Earth.
Visitors who venture to Rio for the Carnival can expect to witness one of the most brilliant displays of color and texture, with unique and vibrant costumes adorned with feathers and fanfare. The sultry beat of the samba music that plays day and night during the festivities is sure to get even the most conservative observer shaking their hips to the rhythm. In fact, for a fee, anyone can hop up on one of the carnival platforms and dance along.
Of course, as with any event of this magnitude, people attending should take appropriate precautions to ensure they remain safe. Police can be located throughout the streets to assist you, but you should also take your own measures to prevent incidents like pick-pocketing from happening to you. Keep items like cameras and purses close to your person at all times, and carefully conceal cash or credit cards. Practice appropriate crowd safety precautions and always remain aware of your surroundings.
Oh, and for the record, the term “safety” doesn’t just refer to crowd control. Given the sensual and carefree nature of the event, guests should also be cautioned to practice safe sex as well. In fact, carnival authorities feel so strongly about this that each year they hand out millions of free condoms. Remember – it’s ok to have fun, but there are some souvenirs you don’t want to go home with.
If you’re looking for a chance to party like a rock star and learn about the rich culture and beauty of another country, then the Rio Carnival should be on your itinerary of places to go. You are guaranteed to have an experience you’ll never forget.
Have you been to Carnival in Rio? Share your experience with us.