Rio Carnival

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Rio Carnival
Desfile Portela 2014 (906185).jpg
A float at Rio Carnival, 2014
Also called"The biggest show on Earth"(Portuguese: O maior show da Terra)
Typecultural, religious
SignificanceCelebration prior to fasting season of Lent.
CelebrationsParades, parties, open-air performances
BeginsFriday before Ash Wednesday (51 days to Easter)
EndsAsh Wednesday noon (46 days before Easter)
2021 dateCanceled
2022 dateApril 20 to 29 April, 2022 (moved up due to COVID-19)”
2023 dateAfternoon, February 17 –
midday, February 22
2024 dateAfternoon, February 9 –
midday, February 14
Related to Carnival, Brazilian Carnival, Ash Wednesday, Lent

The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro (Portuguese: Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro) is a festival held every year before Lent; it is considered the biggest carnival in the world, with two million people per day on the streets. The first Carnival festival in Rio occurred in 1723. [1] [2]


The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats, and adornments from numerous samba schools which are located in Rio (more than 200 approximately, divided into five leagues/divisions). A samba school is composed of a collaboration of local neighbours that want to attend the carnival together, with some kind of regional, geographical and common background.

There is a special order that every school has to follow with their parade entries. Each school begins with the "comissão de frente" (meaning "Front Commission"), that is the group of people from the school that appear first. Made of ten to fifteen people, the comissão de frente introduces the school and sets the mood and style of their presentation. These people have choreographed dances in elaborate costumes that usually tell a short story. Following the "comissão de frente" is the first float of the samba school, called "abre-alas" ("Opening Wing"). These are followed by the Mestre-sala and Porta-Bandeira ("Master of Ceremonies and Flag Bearer"), with one to four pairs, one active and three reserve, to lead the dancers, which include the old guard veterans and the "ala das baianas", with the drum line battery at the rear and sometimes a brass section and guitars.


The Rio Carnival celebration dates back to the 1650s. During that time, elaborate feasts were organized to give honor to the Greek wine gods. The Romans used to worship Bacchus, the god of the grape-harvest. The festival ‘Entrudo’ was introduced by the Portuguese and this inspired the birth of the Carnival in Brazil. In 1840, the very first Rio masquerade took place, and polka and waltz took center stage. [3] Africans subsequently influenced the Carnival with the introduction of Samba music in 1917, which is now considered a traditional Brazilian form.[ citation needed ]

There was no carnival in 1915–18 or 1940–45.[ citation needed ] It has been canceled with strict warnings against clandestine celebrations since 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, and will return come 2023. [4]

Samba school parade

Parade of Mangueira, one of the most traditional samba schools in the Rio Carnival Mangueira 2013 130211.jpg
Parade of Mangueira, one of the most traditional samba schools in the Rio Carnival

The Samba school parades were held in Praça Onze, also known as “Big Africa”, the birthplace of the Carioca Carnival parade as it is known today. Future Estácio de Sá, together with Portela and Estação Primeira de Mangueira paraded for the first time in the city in 1929. In 1930, seven schools were already active in the city. With the works of in Avenida Presidente Vargas, the parade moved there, and from 1942 to 1945 the parade was held in São Januário. From 1952 temporary stands for the public were annually assembled, and in 1961 paid tickets made their debut to take advantage of the rising international and national interest and the increasing tourist arrivals. In 1974, due to the works of the subway, the parade was held on Avenida Presidente Antônio Carlos, from where it was also broadcast for the first time in color television. In 1978, the parade was transferred to the Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue, where it remains up to this day. In 1983, the then governor Leonel Brizola, commissioned the architect Oscar Niemeyer the project of a permanent local stadium for the parades in that same area, because until then the bleachers had continued to be temporary, and only assembled and disassembled for the event.[ citation needed ]

With the increase in the number of schools taking part, which made the parade longer and tiring for the public, in 1984 the parade was separated into two dates and categories: Friday evening into Saturday morning for the lower-level schools; and Sunday evening into Monday morning for the major schools, including the more recognizable ones. That year, a “super-champion” school was also announced following the parade of the champions that took place the following Saturday, which by that time were awarded for the best performances of the past nights of competition. Since this practice was never again repeated, Mangueira remains the only samba school to ever be awarded with the title and dignity of "super-champion" of the annual event. [5] Portela is the samba school that has the largest number of championships with 22.[ when? ]

The schools of the Special Group under LIESA parade over two days (Sunday and Monday), while the A Series schools parade on Friday and Saturday under LIERJ, which also has the B Series, which parades on Fat Tuesday. Both organizations were under the AESCRJ banner before it lost organizing rights, thus also providing for the establishment of new organizations like LIESB and Samba é Nosso for the lower level divisions. [6] The Gold Division (A Series) champion school which advances directly as a participant in the Special Group for the next year's Carnival parades last on Carnival Monday while the Special Group champion parades once more on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday.[ citation needed ]

As of 2018, LIESB handed over the management of the E series and its schools to ACAS, which now operates it as a rookie level organization for samba schools, in 2020 the C Series (Silver Division) fell under a new organization, LIVRES, with LIESB handling the divisions above and below it.[ citation needed ]

A typical performer of Samba dance Unidos da Tijuca e a quinta escola no desfile das campeas 2016 2.jpg
A typical performer of Samba dance


Rio's Carnival begins on the Friday preceding Lent and ends on Ash Wednesday, [7] but the Winners' Parade happens on the Saturday after the carnival ends. [8] [9] The winning school and runners' up of the Special Group, as well as the A Series champion, all march past one final time on this night.


Sambadrome sectors diagram Sambadrome-sectors-diagram.png
Sambadrome sectors diagram

In 1984, the government decided to give Rio Carnival its new home in the Sambadrome. [10] Today, some of the most famous events of Rio Carnival are ticketed events. There are different types of Sambadrome tickets that are available for purchase. Grandstand tickets are general admissions tickets that are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are not allocated ahead of time. Frisas are open air box seats located along the samba runway. Camarotes are luxury boxes situated between the frisas and the grandstands. Sector 9 is the tourist sector which are the same as grandstand tickets, with the difference being that they are allocated so people have assigned seats. [11]

Carnival ticket prices can vary depending on the ticket type, sector and season. The cheapest sectors are 12 and 13. [12] Tickets can be bought in advance through international brokers, or through local travel agents in Rio de Janeiro. 'Purchase of a ticket' normally means purchase of a voucher which is then exchangeable for the ticket close to the date. Ticket sales are organised by LIESA, who will often also make tickets available at late notice via a venue (often a bank) announced the day before. LIESA prices for grandstand tickets vary from Rs5 to Rs500 for the Tourist Sector (2014 prices) [13] (Rs500 = approx. US$250). LIESA publish the base price of the tickets, and agents and brokers charge more (sometimes significantly more) but offer considerable convenience and other benefits.[ citation needed ]

Street carnival

Cordao da Bola Preta, the oldest street block of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival Bola Preta.jpg
Cordão da Bola Preta, the oldest street block of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival

As the parade is taking place in the Sambadrome and the balls are being held in the Copacabana Palace and beach, many carnival participants are at other locations. Street festivals are very common during carnival and are highly populated by the locals. [14] Elegance and extravagance are usually left behind, but music and dancing are still extremely common. Anyone is allowed to participate in the street festivals. Bandas are very familiar with the street carnival especially because it takes nothing to join in on the fun except to jump in. One of the most well known bandas of Rio is Banda de Ipanema. Banda de Ipanema was first created in 1965 and is known as Rio's most irreverent street band. [15]

Incorporated into every aspect of the Rio carnival are dancing and music. The most famous dance is carnival samba, a Brazilian dance with African influences. The samba remains a popular dance not only in carnival but in the ghettos outside of the main cities. These villages keep alive the historical aspect of the dance without the influence of the western cultures. [16]

Music is another major part of all aspects of the carnival. As stated by Samba City, "Samba Carnival Instruments are an important part of Brazil and the Rio de Janeiro carnival, sending out the irresistible beats and rhythms making the crowd explode in a colourful dance revolution fantasy fest!" [17] The samba that is found in Rio is Battucanada, referring to the dance and music being based on percussion instruments. It "is born of a rhythmic necessity that it allows you to sing, to dance, and to parade at the same time." [18] This is why the batucada style is found in most all of Rio's street carnivals.

Street parades, blocos, and bandas take place throughout the city of Rio during Carnival, the most famous and largest carnival celebration of the world. [19] There can be more than 300 bandas taking place at any given point in time. While the biggest street party takes place right outside the Sambadrome, the largest organized street dance is typically found on Cinelândia Square in Rio's Centro. In 2012, more than 2 million revelers took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro to participate in the Cordão da Bola Preta bloco. According to police estimates, more than 5 million people attended a bloco during Rio Carnival 2012 and there was not one reported incident of crime. [20]

When the Sambadrome was built in 1984, it had the side-effect of taking street parades from the downtown area to a specific, ticketed performance area. Some samba schools have since been motivated by an agenda that focuses on regaining public space, and using the carnival tradition to occupy the streets with parades or blocos. Many of these represent a local community of the area but are open to all. [21]

Several of the Rio street carnival blocks that hold the parties are affiliated to the Rio de Janeiro State Street Carnival Blocks Federation (FBCERJ), established in 1965.[ citation needed ]

Corte real

King Momo

Queens of Carnival

The Queen of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and up to two princesses having the duty to woo the revelry, along with the King Momo. Unlike some cities, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Queens of Carnival do not see a certain school of samba. In competitions, princesses are usually placed as second and third, and are correspondingly 1st and 2nd Princess. Some of them after the reign become queens or battery bridesmaids.[ clarification needed ]

Panorama do sambodromo da Marques de Sapucai.jpg
Samba Parade at the Sambódromo (Sambadrome) during the Rio Carnival

See also

Related Research Articles

Brazilian Carnival Annual festival in Brazil

The Carnival of Brazil is an annual Brazilian festival held the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday at noon, which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty-day period before Easter. During Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term "carnival", from carnelevare, "to remove meat."

Samba school

A samba school is a dancing, marching, and drumming club. They practice and often perform in a huge square-compounds and are devoted to practicing and exhibiting samba, an African-Brazilian dance and drumming style. Although the word "school" is in the name, samba schools do not offer instruction in a formal setting. Samba schools have a strong community basis and are traditionally associated with a particular neighborhood. They are often seen to affirm the cultural validity of the Afro-Brazilian heritage in contrast to the mainstream education system, and have evolved often in contrast to authoritarian development. The phrase "escola de samba" is popularly held to derive from the schoolyard location of the first group's early rehearsals. In Rio de Janeiro especially, they are mostly associated with poor neighborhoods ("favelas"). Samba and the samba school can be deeply interwoven with the daily lives of the shanty-town dwellers. Throughout the year the samba schools have various happenings and events, most important of which are rehearsals for the main event which is the yearly carnival parade. Each of the main schools spend many months each year designing the theme, holding a competition for their song, building the floats and rehearsing. It is overseen by a carnavalesco or carnival director. From 2005, some fourteen of the top samba schools in Rio have used a specially designed warehouse complex, the size of ten football pitches, called Samba City to build and house the elaborate floats. Each school's parade may consist of about 3,000 performers or more, and the preparations, especially producing the many different costumes, provide work for thousands of the poorest in Brazilian society. The resulting competition is a major economic and media event, with tens of thousands in the live audience and screened live to millions across South America.

Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí

The Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí is a purpose-built parade area built for the Rio Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The venue is also known as Passarela Professor Darcy Ribeiro or simply the Sambódromo in Portuguese or Sambadrome in English. It is located in the downtown area of Cidade Nova in Rio de Janeiro, and is the place where samba schools parade competitively each year during the Rio Carnival. The parades attract many thousands of Brazilians and foreign tourists each year, and the structure is also used as a multi-purpose performance venue. The structures of the Sambadrome were designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907–2012), and represent his first major work after the end of the Brazilian dictatorship of 1964–1985.


Monobloco is a Brazilian bloco, or street band, that plays during Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro and is also a professional touring show. Unlike most of Rio's blocos, which tend play one type of music, Monobloco has become extremely popular among younger people because of its 'fresh' sound, playing a mix of various rhythms such as coco, ciranda, marchinha, xote, samba, contemporary R&B, and particularly samba-rock and funk. It continues to grow in popularity each year, and can be seen as a symbol of the resurging popularity in Carnaval blocos in Rio de Janeiro.

King Momo King of Carnivals in numerous Latin American festivities

King Momo or King Momos or King Momus, is considered the king of Carnivals in numerous Latin American festivities, mainly in Brazil and Colombia. His appearance signifies the beginning of the Carnival festivities. Each carnival has its own King Momo, who is often given the key to the city. Traditionally, a tall, fat man is chosen to fulfill the role because the original King Momo was of that physical stature.

Carnival blocks, carnaval blocos or blocos de rua are street bands that mobilize crowds on the streets and are the main popular expression of Brazilian Carnival. These parades fall under the term "street carnival", and happen during a period of about one month, beginning before and finishing after Carnival. Blocos usually perform Brazilian rhythms, such as marchinha, samba, frevo, maracatu, and axé.

Bahian Carnival

Bahian Carnival is the annual carnival festival celebrated in the Brazilian state of Bahia, mainly in its capital, Salvador. Carnaval is right around the corner in this energetic city, where traditions — culinary, musical, literary and more — reflect a deep Afro-Brazilian heritage. More than anywhere else in this multiethnic country, Salvador is steeped in Afro-Brazilian culture — from the worship of Yoruba deities (orixás), to the acrobatic practice of capoeira, to a cuisine tinge. The event lasts officially for six full days: it starts on a Thursday, then follows the usual five days of carnival. The term may also be used to comprise related events that happen immediately before or after the carnival in Bahia. Therefore, extending the duration for up to twelve days.

Castor de Andrade

Castor Gonçalves de Andrade e Silva was a well-known bicheiro in Rio de Janeiro. From the 1980s, Castor de Andrade was the uncontested leader of all the main bicheiros of the city of Rio de Janeiro, and had more than 100 policemen and a number of public servants, prominent politicians, and judges working for him. Castor was also very involved in the Brazilian Carnival and in soccer—he was the major sponsor of Bangu Atlético Clube and even called the "owner of Bangu", and he was also the patron of samba school Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel. He also helped found in 1984 the Liga Independente das Escolas de Samba do Rio de Janeiro, which has run the Rio de Janeiro Carnival ever since and has served as the legal cover for the "jogo do bicho cartel".

Liga Independente das Escolas de Samba do Rio de Janeiro, commonly known by the acronym LIESA, is the principal association that organizes the Carnival of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Portela (samba school)

The Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Portela is one of the most traditional samba schools of the city of Rio de Janeiro, and champion of the 2017 Carnival parade. It is the greatest winner of the top-tier Rio parade with 22 titles in total.

The Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Beija-Flor is a Samba school headquartered in the municipality of Nilópolis, Baixada Fluminense, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Acadêmicos do Grande Rio is a samba school of the Special Group of the carnaval of the city of Rio de Janeiro, being headquartered on Almirante Barroso street in Duque de Caxias.

Banda de Ipanema

Banda de Ipanema is one of the largest Carnival blocks of Rio de Janeiro's street Carnival festivities. The first parade happened in 1965, when Brazil was under a military dictatorship. In 2004 it was declared part of the city's cultural heritage. The first parade happens on Saturday two weeks before Carnival, and they march again on Carnival Saturday and Carnival Tuesday (Mardi-Gras). The event attracts as many as 20 thousand people to the streets of Ipanema.

Rosa Magalhães

Rosa Lúcia Benedetti Magalhães is a Brazilian professor and artist. She is best known as the most successful carnival designer in Rio de Janeiro, with six championships won since 1984, when the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí was built. Designing carnival parades since 1971, Rosa likes telling historic events in her designs, such as the discovery of Brazil (2000), the life and creations of Hans Christian Andersen (2005), Don Quixote (2010), and the corruption scandal that led to the construction of the Versailles Palace in France (2017).

Estação Primeira de Mangueira

Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Estação Primeira de Mangueira, or simply Mangueira, is a samba school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The school was founded on April 28, 1928, by Carlos Cachaça, Cartola, Zé Espinguela, among others. It is located at the Mangueira neighborhood, near the region of Maracanã.

The Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba União da Ilha do Governador was founded on March 7, 1953 by the friends Maurício Gazelle, and Quincas Orphylo, who were in Cacuia, the main site of the carnival parade of the Ilha do Governador, watching the presentation of small schools of samba and blocks of various districts of the island. It was then decided that the neighborhood of Cacuia should be represented by a samba school. Currently, the school is based in Estrada do Galeão in the neighborhood of Cacuia.

Unidos de Vila Isabel Samba school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Unidos de Vila Isabel is a samba school in Rio de Janeiro. It was thrice champion of the Special Group and is currently headquartered in Boulevard 28 de Setembro in Vila Isabel.

Marchinha is one of several genres of music typical of Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Southeast Region of Brazil. The other main carnival genres are: samba-enredo, frevo, maracatu and Axé music.

Waldemar Esteves da Cunha

Waldemar Esteves da Cunha was at the time of his death in 2013, the oldest King Momo in Brazil.

Andrea de Andrade Brazilian Carnival Queen

Andrea de Andrade is a Brazilian Carnival Queen. She began performing in samba parades in 2006 with Mocidade, a samba school in Rio de Janeiro. In 2010 she won the "Rainha da bateria" of Mocidade and in 2011 led the parade of this school at the Rio de Janeiro carnival.


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