Brazilian carnival activities

Updated November 21, 2016

The celebration of Carnival goes back to Greek and Roman times, where it was a celebration of spring. Carnival is now known as a Bacchanalian festival of samba dancing, singing and partying. People from all over the world attend the festivities. While the four-day Carnival in Rio is the most popular one, all Brazilian cities celebrate their own version. The biggest one, held for a week in Salvador, is attended by about two million people annually. Carnival generally revolves around the parades and music, but there are many other activities as well.

The Parade of the Trios Electricos

If you really want to enjoy Carnival in Salvador, hang out with the locals and dance the samba on the streets around the Trios Electricos. These are elaborately decorated trailer floats with singers, dancers, huge handmade mascots and powerful stereo systems that parade through the streets. Each float is surrounded by locals and foreigners dancing and drinking. A special area immediately surrounding each float is cordoned off and only those that pay are allowed in this area, with each given colourful, matching costumes.

Samba Parade

The Samba Parade is the highlight of the Rio Carnival. In early parades, groups of people paraded through the streets wildly dancing and singing. It has since become a fierce competition between the many samba schools in Rio. First, a theme is chosen, such as a period of Brazilian history; then the samba songs, which are written each year, are picked; finally, the school's thousands of supporters create the many floats and elaborate costumes for up to 5,000 people. Preparation begins up to eight months in advance. The parade is not a disorderly romp through the streets joined by spectators, but a well-timed, highly organised production viewed by spectators in stands especially made for the parade.

Carnival Balls

The Rio Carnival hosts many different balls. Although it is not necessary to dress up for these events, except for a few, it does help you get in the mood. True Carnival balls offer live music, usually consisting of two bands, often with guest vocalists. Most do not start until 11 p.m. and go on all night. Some of the balls include the most famous and affordable Scala Ball, the flamboyant Gay Costume Ball and, the most glamorous of all, Copacabana Palace Ball, where black tie or luxury costume is required.

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