The Carnival of Brazil (Portuguese: Carnaval) is an annual festival held forty-six days before Easter. On certain days of Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term “carnival,” from carnelevare, “to remove (literally, “raise”) meat.”Carnival have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which, adapted to Christianity, became a farewell to bad things in a season of religious discipline to practice repentance and prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection.
Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In the southeastern cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, huge organized parades are led by samba schools. Those official parades are meant to be watched by the public, while minor parades (“blocos”) allowing public participation can be found in other cities. The northeastern cities of Salvador, Porto Seguro and Recife have organized groups parading through streets, and public interacts directly with them. This carnival is also influenced by African-Brazilian culture. It’s a six-day party where crowds follow the trios elétricos through the city streets, dancing and singing. Also in northeast, Olinda carnival features unique characteristics, part influenced by Venice Carnival mixed with cultural depictions of local folklore.
The typical genres of music of Brazilian carnival are, in Rio de Janeiro (and Southeast Region in general): the samba-enredo, the samba de bloco, the samba de embalo and the marchinha; in Pernambuco and Bahia (and Northeast Region in general) the main genres are: the frevo, the maracatu, the samba-reggae and Axé music.
Carnaval is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Excepted the industries, malls and the carnival related workers, the country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. The consumption of beer accounts for 80% of annual consumptionand tourism receives 70% of annual visitors. The government distributes condoms and launches awareness campaigns at this time to prevent the spread of AIDS.
Rio de Janeiro’s carnival alone drew 4.9 million people in 2011, with 400,000 being foreigners.
Carnaval has become a showcase for celebreties and major marketing promotional activities. The best places to watch the parade are sponsored by major beer breweries and it is common that they invite Brazilian and international celebrities.