Navigate Carnaval like a Carioca
Carnaval, in Rio de Janeiro, is recognized as one of the most vivacious and iconic celebrations in the world, attracting thousands of locals and travelers alike, all vying for their chance to dance samba in the streets. Although the occasion is joyous and telling of the local Carioca way of life, many would be surprised to learn of the famed festival’s complex and much-debated origins.
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Carnaval’s roots can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who went all out to celebrate the rites of spring. The Catholic Church then adopted facets of the event; starting in the 11th century, Carnaval marked the beginning of Lent, the six-week period before Easter of fasting and abstinence. In fact, legend suggests that the name was derived from the Latin expression carne vale, which translates to "farewell to meat." By the 17th century, the tradition made its way to Brazil but not without evolving along the way and absorbing influences from its cultural predecessors.
The Carnaval that’s celebrated in Rio de Janeiro today owes much of its current acclaim to the birth of samba music in the city, which played a critical role in shaping the celebration. Although the Sambadrome is where you’ll find the dedicated Carnaval float parades, the real action of Carnaval can be felt everywhere, from the beaches by day to the streets by night.
This year’s celebration began February 24 and goes through March 4, the date of the highly anticipated Champion's Parade. If you’re headed down to Rio, here are some can’t-miss things to do at Brazil’s most raucous party.
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