The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a festival held every year before Lent, which is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday; and considered the biggest carnival in the world with two million people per day on the streets. The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats, and adornments from numerous samba schools which are located in Rio.
The Rio Carnival celebration dates back to 1640s. 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. Africans subsequently influenced the Carnival with the introduction of samba music in 1917, which is now considered a traditional Brazilian form.
In 1984, the government decided to give Rio Carnival its new home in the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí. The venue is also known as Passarela Professor Darcy Ribeiro or simply the Sambódromo in Portuguese or Sambadrome in English. It is one of two works designed by Oscar Niemeyer upon his return to Brazil after exile during the Brazilian dictatorship of 1964-1985. The Sambadrome was not only to function as the centerpiece of the Rio Carnival, but also house a primary school with 115 classrooms underneath the bleachers of the structure. Niemeyers’s Praça da Apoteose (Apotheosis Square), a 90 metres (300 ft) trilegged arch, became a noted symbol of the Rio Carnival.
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. 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!” 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.” This is why the battucada 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.