The Rio Carnival is the most celebrated event that has made it the world’s biggest party. Beginning a week before Lent, a period of fasting, repentance, and abstinence from worldly pleasures, the Carnival attracts over a million visitors to Rio every year. Street parades, extravagant Carnival balls, and non-stop parties at hotels, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants across Rio bring the city to a halt. From the pagan celebration called Saturnalia to the Rio Carnival 2014, Carnival celebrations have undergone a sea change with the Roman Catholic giving the celebrations a religious face with the resurrection of Jesus Christ being the main focus.
The Carnival has always had a healing touch where people come together in a bid to forget their sorrows and troubles, drowning them in song and dance. Masquerade balls were held as early as 1641 in European countries like France and Portugal, the Carnival made an appearance in Brazil around the 1700s when Portuguese immigrants indulged in friendly street fights, throwing mud and water at each other. The event evolved into an elaborate celebration during the 1800s where elaborate costume parades were held on the streets of Rio. The wife of an Italian ambassador is said to have hosted the first Rio Carnival celebration in 1840 in the form of a masquerade ball with musicians and dancers in attendance.
The event paved the way for a grander celebration with participation by the less privileged sections of society as well, particularly from the favelas in and around Rio. Invitees to these celebratory events were entertained with the polka and waltz performed by well-known musicians of the time. One popular Carnival event during this time was Ze Pereira, organized by a Portuguese gentleman, Jose Nogueira. The parade marched through the streets with a host of instruments including drums, tambourines, and whistles, while the locals also joined in with kitchen utensils as instruments, adding to the fervor of the celebrations. Military bands with elaborate floats became the main focus of the parades during the late 1890s and early 1900s. People organized themselves in cordoes or groups, indulging in their own style of celebration, now evident as the blocos today. You can catch up with blocos in their elaborate costumes and professional samba musicians and dancers throughout the city during the Rio Carnival 2014.
At the Rio Carnival 2014 you can look forward to swaying to the intoxicating rhythms of the samba. The samba, developed by African slaves brought to Brazil by the Portuguese, became the main focus of the Carnival in the early 1900s. The slaves, known to be musically inclined, showcased their talent with music, song, and dance set to the rhythms of the samba. With the abolition of slavery, the samba became the essence of Carnival celebrations, which also heralded the formation of samba schools.
Inaugurated in 1984, the Sambadrome is at the heart of Carnival celebrations. It was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, known as the pioneer of modern architecture.
At the Rio Carnival 2014 you can expect to samba with Mangueira, the oldest samba school formed in 1928. Samba schools such as Beija Flor, Salgueiro, Mocidade, and Grande Rio have a large following. The schools plan hard throughout the year in preparation for the ‘biggest party on the planet’ held at the Sambadrome. More so, for the coveted Champion of Champions trophy, a prize dedicated to every member of the samba school involved in the creation of the samba theme song, spectacular floats, and elaborate and innovative costumes for the samba parade, the schools take over the Sambadrome on 4 nights of the Rio Carnival, keeping the ecstatic crowds on their toes throughout the night.
Like the other grand parties over the years, the Rio Carnival 2014 promises to be even grander. Each samba school prepares a theme, which they portray through song, dance, and the most creative costumes for which a panel of 40 judges award points. The school ending up with the most points earns the coveted Champion of Champions title that is announced on Ash Wednesday. While the top musicians and lyricists from the samba school compose a song, thousands of members of the schools from fashion designers to seamstresses and carpenters go about crafting the spectacular costumes and floats designed to portray their theme. You can catch sensuous samba dancers from Rio in costumes that leave little to imagination.
From fancy dress balls to humble street parties, Rio’s Carnival week has a form of entertainment for everyone. As always, the Rio Carnival 2014 commences with the crowning of King Momo or King Fat by the mayor of Rio, that heralds a raucous, free-for-all weeklong festivity. Every year, the mythical figure is carefully chosen as a tradition. King Momo transforms the city into a party zone where all rules are bent. This is the time where the poor dress up as kings, men as women, and where everyone takes the opportunity to escape their drab daily existence for a week. Over a million people are likely to descend on the Rio Carnival 2014 celebrations, which begin at the Sambadrome with the Access Group putting up their own show.
On Carnival Friday and Saturday, the Access Group - also known as the Gold group - signals the beginning of fierce competition at the Sambadrome with the samba schools parading for a place in the next year’s champions group of 12 schools that form the Special group. Carnival Sunday and Monday are the days when the Special Group with the most talented samba musicians and dancers keep the 80,000 spectators at the Sambadrome on their feet. Judges award the schools for their hard work with points for their samba theme, song, dance, costumes, floats, and other aspects of their performance. The champions of the Rio Carnival 2014 are declared on Ash Wednesday and return to the Sambadrome the following Saturday for one last showdown to reaffirm their championship title.
The Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel and the Scala Gay Ball are among the most prestigious Carnival balls held during the festivities. The Magic Ball is one of the most expensive events, which attract the rich and famous from around the globe. The Gay Ball at the Scala Rio Nightclub is considered the wildest, straight-friendly party in town where drag queens and transvestites are the center of attraction in their exotic and outlandish costumes. The Gay Ball marks the end of festivities on Carnival Tuesday. If you desire to experience the Carnival spirit in its entire splendor, book your tickets to these events as early as possible.
Carnival partying isn’t only for the rich and famous. If you are visiting the Rio Carnival 2014 you have the privilege of joining hundreds of street parties that begin well before Carnival week. Samba groups or blocos organize street parties that are held at almost every street corner. Each bloco is entrusted with the task of organizing parties and parades in their neighborhood. Among the most popular street parades are the Banda de Ipanema and Simpatia e quase Amor. This is the time when people shed their inhibitions so if you would want to be choosy and you are traditional in your views, go ahead to the Sambadrome and skip some of these street parties.
There are thousands of tourists that desire to attend the Rio Carnival 2014. Therefore, it pays to be an early bird and reserve your hotel room and tickets much before the New Year comes around. You aren’t spoiled for choice when it comes to partying at the biggest event on the planet. From the Sambadrome to Carnival balls, there are plenty of places to enjoy the Carnival spirit. All you need is a costume to get you in the mood.
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