Carnival Rio de Janeiro 2019
People are already asking us on ours Free Walking Tour Rio de Janeiro about Carnival. Rio’s Carnival is the biggest carnival of the planet, and also one of the craziest parties you will ever experience! The official carnival lasts for less than one week, but the preparations start already months before the real event! Street parties, colourful costumes, samba schools presenting and millions of people from all over the world. Read here about history and best tips for Carnival Rio de Janeiro 2019.
History of Carnival
The origin of carnival goes all the way back to 4000 a.C when in Greece the population organized celebrations for gods of wine. Later, the Catholic Romans defined the carnival we know today. This has to do with the Catholic calendar, because the official date of carnival is the Ash Wednesday, which opens Lent, a 40 days period of praying and fasting. From Italy, carnival tradition spread to France and Spain, and later on to other countries.
To Brazil carnival arrived during 17th century by the portuguese. Immediately, the party started to take part on annual calendar with various types of games, dances and traditions. Loads of ideas, such as the costumes, came from the Carnival of Venezia.
Until approximately 1850, the typical carnival of Rio was very different as we know today. There was a popular game called “entrudo”, that everybody liked to take part. “Entrudo Popular” was kind of play, where people played with water all around the city. Another entrudo was called “entrudo familiar”, where the games were realized inside houses between family members.
Late 19th century were born the “cordões and blocos”. These were formed by groups that walked or danced in a line, everyone wearing costumes and colourful masks. Blocos today are the main thing of street carnival in Rio!
Today we know carnival with african traditions, such like samba. But actually this is pretty new thing. Samba was related to carnival only during the 20th century. Before that, the music was for example Polka or Vals. African origins in our carnival are explained by slavery. Brasil received more African slaves than any other country in the world!
Samba schools & Samba Parade
The first samba schools were born during 1920’s and they started to be part of carnival. They were born from old carnival societies or clubs, that promoted parties during the period of carnival. The very first samba school “Deixa Falar”, or in english “Let me Speak” was inaugurated in 1928. Their idea was to develop the carnival tradition. Four years later, 1932 was organized the first samba parade, in which 19 different samba schools competed against each other. The winner was today very famous samba school, Mangueira.
In the beginning, the samba parades were pretty simple, the costumes, and the decorations were not like they are today. Todays samba parade which happens in Sambodromo during carnival, is one of the biggest events of the world. Every samba school has a limited time to present their show. From 12 schools, the jury chooses the winner after few days of competition. During carnival, to see this competition, you need to buy your tickets early enough, especially for the last day!
Besides Mangueira, some other big samba schools are for example Portela, Beija-Flor, Unidos da Tijuca and Salgueiro. The samba schools are generally located a bit out of the tourist zones. But especially before carnival, when they are practising, anybody can take part to the practise!
Carnival is so much more than the famous samba parade. All of the fun part of carnival are on the streets. For one week, Rio’s streets are packed of people joining to different “blocos”. Blocos are independent street bands, that are the major attraction of Rio’s street carnival.
There are blocos dedicated to all kinds of music styles. The most traditional ones play samba, such as Cordão da Bola Preta, which is generally the biggest bloco of carnival. approximately a million people take part annually to this bloco. This year, 2019, Cordão da Bola Preta is completing 100 years, so this year is extra important!
There is a great variety of blocos, and if samba isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There is something in carnival for anybody. Anybody. One very famous bloco is called Sargento Pimenta, which plays only Beatles songs but with some carnival beats. There are aproximately 500 different blocos, from which you can choose where you want to spend your carnival. Some of them start early in the morning, as early as 7am, as some of the blocos only start to concentrate at 3am! So there is a party 24 hours during carnival! Also there are a few secret blocos. There aren´t on the official carnival program, usually gather less people, all of them carnival-lovers! Usually the time and place are revealed only a few hours before on social medias.
Here’s some blocos, that are worth checking out:
Céu na Terra, or “Heaven on Earth” happens on Carnival Saturday in Santa Teresa. This is one of the most traditional blocos, that passes through the cobblestone streets of picturesque Santa Teresa. Year 2011 by Globo, Céu na Terra was chosen as “the most colourfull bloco of carnival”.
Orquestra Voadora gathers people in Flamengo Park, and keeps on walking until the Modern Art Museum, where happens the final presentation. This bloco gets veeeeery buys. Orquestra Voadora mixes traditional carnival marches with samba, rock’n roll and general pop music!
Boi Tolo is one of my personal favorite blocos. It’s also known as a bloco that never ends haha. Bloco starts around 7 am and goes on for the entire day and night. Don’t think about going without a costume, because people who frequent thee bloco, are very creative with their costumes.
Minha Luz é de Led is more an alternative bloco. It starts around midnight, and goes on for all night walking through the streets of central Rio. Music varies between rock, techno and brazilian MPB. But with carnival beats of course! On this bloco you have to go decorated with anything that is bright and shines. You will find people covered with led lights and glitter.
Banda de Ipanema is a bloco by the beach. It’s one of the first blocos on Zona Sul, and exists already for 50 years! Banda de Ipanema actually is considered as cultural patrimony of Rio de Janeiro! Bloco plays traditional carnival songs, sambas, choros, forrós… You can expect aproximately a hundred thousand people joining this bloco!
Pre and Pos Carnival
In case you don’t have the opportunity to be in Rio during carnival, don’t worry! Pre-carnival starts already in December-January, when samba schools and blocos practise. Normally right after new years eve, every weekend until carnval there is loads of events where you can feel the carnival vibe. Open this link, and you can see a list of blocos happening before carnival!
Carnival is so much fun, that is very hard to let go. That’s why for some weekends after carnival, we still join to blocos, and already start to count days on next year’s carnival! The whole year around, you can occasionally find carnival blocos and themed parties.
It’s also possible to enter to see how samba schools practise before the famous carnival parade. Normally on Saturdays, different samba schools practise, and anybody can join the fun. To enter these events, you have to pay an entrance fee, and your food & drinks. Some tour agencies offer these experiences, so you don’t need to worry about getting there.
Find out about more of Rio and it’s events curiosities on one of our Free Walking tour Rio de Janeiro