What is the most highly anticipated and favourite holiday in Brazil? If you guessed Carnival, you’re right! Carnival is hands down the country’s biggest and most popular party.
Most people have already heard about the famous celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and other cities in the northeast like Salvador and Recife. They imagine lots of people dancing samba, wearing costumes, drinking and enjoying the parades and the awesome street parties.
Sure enough, the celebration brings all other activities in the country to a grinding halt. Carnival, however, is far from monolithic. It can be – and is! – celebrated in many ways, both in Brazil and elsewhere. In fact, every city in Brazil has different festivities, and locals take time to celebrate how they want. Some people spend the holiday on the beaches and party in the nightclubs, some celebrate in the streets with parades and bands, some go abroad, and some just like to stay home for some rest and relaxation. No matter where you are, Carnival is always a great time to be in Brazil and join in on the mass-scale fun.
A Carnival Warm-Up
In Curitiba, capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the biggest city in southern Brazil, Carnival happens a little bit differently. People sometimes say that Carnival here is not very exciting or even that the city doesn’t have a Carnival at all, but this has been changing ever since a small group of friends decided to give the Carnival atmosphere some momentum in Curitiba. They started to organise and celebrate a local Carnival back in 1998 when they founded a group called Garibaldis e Sacis that congregates in Largo da Ordem, the Old Town district. The party is called Pré-Carnaval de Curitiba, meaning a ‘warm-up’ for Carnival.
The idea was a big hit and nowadays the Pré-Carnaval take place without fail every Sunday afternoon starting a month before the official national holiday. The party starts at 4pm, right after the famous open market, the Feira de Artesanato do Largo da Ordem, closes, and then comes to an end around 11pm.
On each Sunday, the party has a theme for which everyone dresses up and joins an improvised little parade as an excellent excuse to dance, sing and drink around the city’s historical centre. According to the event organisers, the 2011 group already numbers more than 5,000 people. Most of them are students, but families, lawyers, journalists and all kinds of people participate – even little kids!
Getting into the Groove
In 2008, I moved to Curitiba from São José do Rio Preto, a rural part of São Paulo State. Since I love to party and experience new things, I had to check out the Pré-Carnaval. I loved it so much that I started going every year. I have only missed one Sunday so far because of rain, but the party still happened regardless. I really enjoy it and think it is an awesome local Curitiba event that everyone in the city should support through participation.
It was amazing to see the crowd dancing, singing, laughing and chatting, all with big grins on their faces. But what most amazed me most was the atmosphere of familiarity and joy. Every time I go I see lots of friends and also meet many new people. In 2010, I went with a friend from Recife and he said that it felt like he was in Olinda, a famous historic town in the northeast that holds one of the most famous Carnival celebrations in Brazil! He was really surprised by Curibita’s party and we had a great time.
Another curiosity about Carnival in Curitiba is that on the date of the official holiday, the city holds a psychobilly and rockabilly festival called Psycho Carnival, instead of the popular samba music and dance traditional in other cities. Now in its 12th year, the event attracts music artists and festival-goers from all over the world. In fact, ten out of the 30 bands scheduled to play in 2011 are from countries like the United States, England, Australia, Germany, Ecuador and Argentina.
I haven’t been to the Psycho Carnival yet because it is not my style. Nor have I been to see the famous celebrations in Rio and São Paulo yet, but I would love eventually to experience all kinds of Carnivals. Every year I like to go to somewhere new: 2008 in my hometown with my family, 2009 in Ouro Preto, the historic town where college students organise an awesome party on the campus and in the streets.
In 2010 I went to Bloco Oba in Votuporanga, a small city close to my hometown, and it was the best Carnival ever. each day the party itself takes place in two parts – first from 2pm to 10pm and then again from 1am to 7am. Famous Brazilian bands get around 20,000 people pumped and partying the whole day, five days in a row. Crazy huh? I had a blast and this year I plan to spend my Carnival there again!
If you enjoy partying and Carnival, there is no better country to visit than Brazil! Every good traveller needs to experience it at least once in a lifetime.