Carnaval celebrations, explained: I SPI

in Features by
Photo/Anya Pinto“I SPI: Seeing culture through every eye” is a new series on iPatriotPost aiming to combat ignorance with cultural education. According to a survey conducted by the ActionPAKT club at our school, only 46% of students (53 out of 116 total respondents) were able to name and explain the significance behind a celebration outside of their own culture. I SPI will spotlight a different tradition in each article in order to raise awareness and acceptance. If you have an idea about something we could feature, please fill out this Google Form.

Two million heartbeats synchronize with the rhythm to which your body moves. Months of preparation culminate in each carefree step, perfected by the feathers and glitter that adorn your skin.

Every year in February or March, the streets in cities across the globe fill with color. Carnival celebrations bring parades of performers in bright, intricate costumes accompanied by joyful music. Millions of spectators flock to the cities in excitement.

Carnival, also known as Carnaval (Latin-derived name for Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and French-speaking areas) or Carnevale (Italian-speaking areas), is a festival marking the beginning of Lent in Christian cultures. Beginning on Ash Wednesday in February, Lent marks the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert and enduring Satan’s temptations. Many Christians observe the period by fasting or refraining from eating meat every Friday. This period of solemnity starts with a bang, however.

Focusing on the Carnival celebrations of Rio de Janeiro, Cristiane Bomfim, junior Barbara Bomfim’s mother, reflected on her past. She danced in Rio’s parade in her youth, preparing for months by attending Portela, one of over 70 participating samba schools.

“I remember our performance was about 15 minutes long, but it seemed like an hour. The emotions were so intense that it felt like we were performing forever,” Bomfim said.

These schools prepare performers for the parade months in advance, hiring choreographers, musicians and costume designers to put together a spectacle with a cohesive theme. Each samba school is linked to a favela (slum), and participation is free for residents because the event is sponsored by corporations. Wealthier and middle-class people can pay a membership fee to attend rehearsals and then buy a costume to participate in the parade.

Samba schools also present celebrities on parade floats who come mostly with the mutual incentive of marketing and publicity. The entire parade is a competition between samba schools and the shows they put on. 

“The day that I went to the sambodromo [exhibition place for the samba school parades], my heart was beating so fast. When I got onto the street and saw stands of people cheering for me, singing in unison, it was so overwhelmingly vibrant,” Bomfim said.

The celebrations usually start around 5 a.m. and end around 2 a.m. the next day with the entire city joining in; there are both VIP sections and cheaper seats which are set further behind.

Carnival also enables members of poorer communities to learn about and express themselves through art, dance, music and culture. It provides them with jobs during preparation, so they can earn money through the celebrations thereby stimulating the regional economy. It brings people of Rio de Janeiro together irrespective of their socioeconomic status.

“Everyone at Carnival is equal; it doesn’t matter where you come from or how much money you make. At the end of the parade, when we reached an area called Apoteose Square, we didn’t have to follow the form of the parade anymore. We were free to party, dance and express our own style which made it a unique and beautiful experience,” Bomfim said.

Senior Julia Karrer provided a different perspective on the parades, as someone who has watched but never participated.

“To me, the best part is definitely the energy of everyone singing and dancing together. We get to eat delicious food, try different beverages, dance all day long, and watch the beautiful parades. Everyone gets to pick their favorite by  the end of the event and cheer on the winner,” Karrer said.

Millions of people celebrate Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Now a senior at American Heritage, Anya returns as Editor-in-Chief of the Patriot Post. With her passion for journalism, she is Co-President of the Quill and Scroll Honor Society. She started an organization called “ActionPAKT: Projects Advocating for a Kinder Tomorrow” to educate youth about current issues and help them take action; currently, she has expanded it to 15+ chapters in multiple countries, raising $17,000 within the Heritage chapter itself. As a Youth Ambassador for Bullets4Life, Anya advocates for gun control. She leads the top Model UN program in the nation as President, competing nationally and organizing conferences at school. To relax, Anya hangs out with friends, swims, goes on walks and binge watches Netflix. She loves the beach, good food and her lazy little dog Simba more than anything.