Saturday, March 8, 2014

Carnival 2016: Brazil

This is the sixth installment in an 8-part series on Carnival, the biggest party in the world

Dateline (proposed): Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 9, 2016

While I have not yet been to Brazil, I do look forward to my first visit! There are many compelling reasons for visiting this vast country:

  • For one thing, I'd love to explore the Amazon river. Jaguars and piranha and Amazonite gems, oh my! This trip would take some special preparation.  I would be sure to bring along my Amazon Warrior Princess girlfriend.
  • Of course I could attend the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2014. After all, I have developed a love of soccer from watching my daughter play at a high level. And if I brought her along, well, we'd both have a blast!  
  • Another opportunity would be the Summer Olympics, which are coming to Brazil in the summer of 2016. I attended the 1988 Games in Seoul, and truly enjoyed them. Global sporting events are fantastic for bringing the International community together. 
  • And then, there is Carnival. Attracting millions of visitors, Carnival is another huge draw. Vibrant and vivacious, sexy and sultry, flashy and fleshy, the Brazilians really put the carnal in Carnival.

To my way of thinking, there is no reason not to make several trips to Brazil, but if I had to choose only one, I would pick Carnival. In fact, Carnival in 2016 would be a great time to head south of the equator--not only to catch a preview of Olympic venues, and not only to avoid the Presidential election campaigning which will drown out all other discourse in the USA, but also to observe and participate in Carnaval (Portuguese spelling) on the beaches between Rio and Sao Paulo during what will be summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The famous Copacabana Beach is one of many beautiful
beaches between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Carnival in Brazil sets the flesh-flash standard for all Carnival pre-Lenten celebrations worldwide. Originally, Carnival was a pagan custom celebrating the arrival of spring (Northern Hemisphere). However, early Christian culture was loath to relinquish the popular festival and instead incorporated it into their religious traditions. As French, Spanish, and Portuguese explorers colonized the New World, they also implanted their religious traditions. In Brazil, where Carnival occurs at the end of summer, the ties to pagan rites of Spring are rendered meaningless. At the same time, the aspects of Carnival as pre-Lenten fling seem amplified.

Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, Christians prepare for Easter Sunday by fasting or foregoing favorite foods and activities (the requirements vary for different Christian denominations). Brazil Carnival begins four days before Ash Wednesday. Brazil Carnival--Saturday through Tuesday--is a great way to cut loose and enjoy life before the restrictions of Lent are imposed.

Carnival in Brazil is sultry and seductive

Every Brazilian city chooses its own celebratory traditions such as masquerades, parades, feasts, social gatherings, and dancing. Brazil Carnival is famous for the sexy, rhythmic samba and rumba music and dance forms, and the Rio Carnival pictures and Sao Paulo carnival photos show plenty of scantily clad carnival girls. A more family-friendly carnival occurs in Olinda, which takes place in the daytime and at venues all over the city, as opposed to night time in roped-off party zones more common in Rio and Sao Paulo.

Carnival Girls dance in the streets

Brazil Carnival has many parades, but the most elaborate are specifically designed to showcase plot-driven, themed samba school performances. To fully appreciate the complexity and artistry of the performances, it is helpful to understand the origins of the dance and even partake in samba lessons. You can get a pretty good idea for the samba in this 4 minute video by Tania Amthor.

Brazil Carnival performance participants delve into their roles with the help of colorful and elaborate costumes. Ateliers work up to eight months in advance, making the costumes by hand. Bright parrot colors, feathers, beads, satins and sequins are typical materials used in Brazil Carnival costumes.

Carnival Costumes are Colorful and Ornate. 

Rio Carnival parades occur throughout the city, from Copacabana Beach to city streets. It's the Carnival Brazil floats and the glittering costumes of the samba dancers that are the most photogenic.

Tudo Bem? Is everything OK?

With the samba music pounding and everyone dancing around you, it might be quite difficult to pick up some of the phrases that are said during Carnaval. The Brazilian people tend to be incredibly proud of both their country and their Carnaval. If you are asked what you think of place then you could simply say “legal” which means "fine" but what if you really want to get across how much you have fallen in love with such a beautiful and fun loving country? Just say, "O Brasil é lindo maravilhoso!" This is a phrase which lets them know that you think that the country is wonderfully marvelous, and after just a short stay there, you are bound to mean it when you say it.

"Tudo bem" is a catch-all phrase you can use if you bump into someone while you are dancing, get introduced to a stranger, or simply want to be friendly to anyone. In English it means “Is everything ok?,” but it can also mean “How are you?” in a general sense. If you don’t learn a lot of Portuguese then you are going to say this a lot while you are in Brazil.

As I write this post on Fat Tuesday +4, it's fair to point out that the sanitation workers in Rio are still on strike, refusing to clear the post-party refuse. Carnaval began with parades and parties in the roped off zones of Rio on Friday, February 28th. By Wednesday morning, the city was more than slightly smelly. More on that story is here:

I feel I MUST attend Caraval at least once in my life!

Tudo Bem!