CARNIVAL IN RIO DE JANEIRO
Carnival is Rio’s biggest event. It happens at the peak of summer when Cariocas are at their best. The festivities attract millions of people from all corners of the world. Carnival, as spelled in Portuguese, is a 4-day celebration, starting on Saturday, and ending on Fat Tuesday (Mardi-Gras). The dates change every year, it is 40 days before the Lent, a Catholic holiday.
The origins of Carnival are unclear, but most agree that it started as a pagan celebration in ancient Rome, or Greece. Carnival balls were imported from Italy in the late nineteenth century, and had their golden era in the thirties, with legendary balls at the Copacabana Palace Hotel, and the Municipal Theater.
The Samba Parade began in the 30’s, first timidly at Praça XI square, and later at Presidente Vargas Avenue. It found a permanent home in 1984 at the Sambodrome, where it takes place until today. The event is broadcast to dozens of countries and all Brazilian states. Many people think of it as the greatest show on Earth.
Street Carnival Festivities
There is much more to Carnival than the Samba Parade, though. Street Carnival is loads of fun, free, and it happens all over the city. You are more than welcome to watch and participate. The most traditional and big street bands can attract up to 300,000 people per parade!
The Samba School Parade
The Samba School Parade at Rio´s Sambodrome is something everybody must experience at least once in life. Unlike Street Carnival, the Samba Parade is not free. Tickets are actually quite expensive, but more than worth the investment. The schools are divided into 2 groups, the Special (first league) and the Access (second league). Each year two schools will go down from Special to Access, and vice-versa. This samba marathon is also a fierce competition. The parades start at 9 p.m. and go on until sunlight the next day, around 6 a.m. On Friday and Saturday, the Access ones make their perform, seven schools per night. On Sunday and Monday, it is the Special group perform, with six schools per night. There is also one extra parade on the following Saturday after Carnival, when the winners perform again.
The Sambodrome is divided into sectors, and each sector has different kinds of seats. Some are better than others. The best one is 9, the good ones are 11, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4. The 3 and 2 are not so good and the worst ones are 13, 12 and 1 (the view is poor).
Sector 9 is the best one because it is the touristic sector, with numbered seats in any position and it is available through travel agencies only. These sectors share an area known as recuo da bateria (drummers’ niche). When schools pass by the percussion band, things tend to get hotter – and you enjoy the benefits.
The other sectors are the so-called popular sectors and do not offer the same infra-structure as we find at the tourist sectors.