Rio Carnival 2009 starts on Friday, February 20th and ends on Fat Tuesday, February 24th.
Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World. The Rio Carnaval is not only the biggest Carnival, benchmark against which every other carnival is compared but also one of the most interesting artistic events on the Globe. Pretty much everyone has heard of the Rio Carnaval. Foreign visitors to it alone number around 500,000 every year.
Rio Carnival is a wild 4 day celebration, 40 days before Easter. It officially starts on Saturday and finishes on Fat Tuesday with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday after which one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnival with all its excesses, celebrated as a profane event, can thus be considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. It usually happens in February, the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere, when the Rio summer is at its peak.
There are carnival celebrations in virtually every corner of Brazil, the best-known ones taking place in Recife together with the neighboring Olinda (in the Northeast of Brazil) and Salvador. But the biggest and most famous carnival is undoubtedly the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
One of the greatest elements of the Rio Carnaval is that it not only provides entertainment for many people around the world but at the same time it gives also a chance to learn about the true culture of Brazil. Carnival is very important to the Brazilians being their very rich cultural manifestation.
It is a euphoric event where people dance, sing, party and have tons of fun. There are many parties that take place before, during and after Carnival all night and all day. It allows someone's true heart to come out and have as much fun as possible.
Rio Carnival is the result of months of preparation. People eagerly anticipate the start of each year's Rio Carnival. It begins with the crowning of the Fat King (King Momo), who is presented with a giant silver and gold key by the city's mayor.
Almost all of the music played during Rio Carnival is samba. It is a uniquely Brazilian music originating from Rio and a dance form that was invented by the poor Afro-Brazilians.
The word samba comes from the Angolan world semba referring to a type of ritual music. The word had a variety of meanings to the African slaves brought to Brazil during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It meant to pray or invoke the spirits of the ancestors and the gods of the African Pantheon. As a noun, it could mean a complaint, a cry, or something like "the blues".
The Samba Schools
The samba schools are vital elements of Rio Carnival. They are social clubs representing a particular neighborhood, usually a working class community of the slums (favelas). They have a samba hall to entertain and practice their samba and a separate production unit to make their costumes and floats for their Rio Carnival Parade.
The samba schools entertain the community through samba nights and create a pageant for the Samba Parade. They have to pick themes, write music and lyrics, make costumes and floats and practice all year around to succeed in the Parade.