Carnival in Brazil: Different Regions, Different Traditions

By Prefeitura de Olinda from Brasil (Encontro de Bonecos Gigantes de Silvio Botelho) via Wikimedia Commons

By Prefeitura de Olinda from Brasil (Encontro de Bonecos Gigantes de Silvio Botelho) via Wikimedia Commons

When people think about Carnaval, Carnival in Brazil, they often think about the big desfiles, parades in Rio de Janeiro. Carnival in Rio is, in fact, one of the greatest festivais, festivals in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

But if you want to see the parades, you’ll have plan well in advance to buy a not-so-cheap ticket to one of the 90.000 lugares numerados, numbered seats at the Sambódromo, Sambadrome. And although you’ll get to cantar, sing and dançar, dance to your favorite parts of the parades, this celebration is more about seeing than participating.

So how do the other more than 200 million Brazilians celebrate this exuberant four-and-a-half-day holiday that starts this year on sábado, 24 de fevereiro, Saturday 02/24, goes through Terça-Feira Gorda, Fat Tuesday, and ends ao meio dia da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas, at noon on Ash Wednesday?

Well, different regions of this large country celebrate in different ways, but in the most popular of these o folião, the reveler is an essential part of the events.

The traditional Carnival in Salvador, Bahia, for example, is celebrated with crowds following a trio elétrico. This is a decorated flatbed truck carrying a powerful sound system and an elevated stage from which a famous musician gives a performance. The throngs, sometimes in costumes, follow the truck throughout the city for hours singing and dancing along.

By Alecarrasco, via Wikimedia Commons

By Alecarrasco, via Wikimedia Commons

Olinda, Recife is another town with a great and entirely original tradition. In this beautifully preserved colonial seaside town, enormous dolls or puppets of papier-mâché are followed by the crowds that sing and dance to the local musical style called frevo and maracatu.

In São Paulo and many other cities like Curitiba in Paraná or Florianópolis in Santa Catarina the most popular way of celebrating Carnaval is being part of um bloco de rua, a street block. A block is a group of people dressed up in similar costumes that parade through the streets following a musical band. The blocos are organized by each municipality but are much more spontaneous and casual than the big parades in the sambadromes.

In addition, most towns have a local sports or social club that organizes bailes a fantasia, costume balls, held during the day for children and in the evenings for adults, where foliōes, revelers sing and dance to live bands playing marchinhas carnavalescas, carnival songs.

But, of course, not everybody was born or likes to samba, so many people take advantage of this holiday to go to the beach, visit friends and relatives, or just stay at home, away from all the heavy traffic and excessive travel costs watching the events on TV.