A country of many festivities



The world’s greatest spectacle! That might just be the best definition of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival.

 Carnival originated in ancient Rome and then was revamped by Christianity to always begin on the day of the epiphany and run through to Ash Wednesday, the eve of Lent. It is known for its festivals, incorporating many pagan rituals and customs, and for the freedom of self-expression.

In the past it was known as Shrovetide, in Latin introis, which means “entrance”. At the end of the day, as are all things, it was secular and religious. And Carnival is celebrated throughout the world. However, in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro, Carnival has taken on cinematic and superlative proportions. It is the parties of all parties. It is a great rite of celebration

How to dress up at Carnival


If you are going to be part of the official samba school parade you will have to buy your costume well in advance, via the school’s website.


If your idea is to go to some large fancy dress ball, be it at a club, nightclub or closed party (like the traditional “Baile do Copa” (Copa Ball), at the Copacabana Palace Hotel or the Vogue Ball, the publications chic party), make a special effort. Pay attention to detail such as hair, make-up, and accessories.


Finally, for the street parties, you go as you wish – but, preferably, use light and comfortable clothes. Use and abuse the make-up and glitter and usually some sort of headdress is almost obligatory.

The Rio version has always been the more elaborate, chic and trendy of the celebrations, frequented by both Brazilian celebrities and those from overseas (this year the highlight was the presence of award-winning film director Tim Burton who commented, “The Rio show is like a movie I would like to make”.

However, the São Paulo version, these days, is also of huge importance. Since taking place at the Sambódromo do Anhembi (Anhembi Sambadrome), previously the parade was held along a famous street in the city centre, the samba schools have begun to invest more and more in their floats, costumes and overall performance. It also helped that Rio and Sao Paulo have formed a partnership which has brought significant improvements to both events.



Much of the progress of the São Paulo event has taken place thanks to the partnership established with Rio samba schools. The two spectacles not take place on the same day: half the São Paulo schools parade on Friday and the other half on Saturday. Then there’s a day off on Monday and the final results are released on Tuesday.


In Rio half of the schools parade on Sunday and the other half on Monday. Tuesday is the day off, and the results are confirmed on Wednesday. Thanks to the careful planning and cooperation of schedules both the participants – dancers, percussionists, etc. – and the tourists who come to watch the parades can be part of both events! Many of the teams that organise, rehearse and develop the parades for the schools of São Paulo, are in fact from Rio. Similarly, many Paulistas go to the Rio Sambadrome to show allegiance and support the samba schools from there. All mixed together for two large illustrious parties for our eyes, ears and heart to enjoy.

Parties from the North to the South

 But Brazil is not limited to Carnival. In each region, in each state, there are dozens of other interesting parties. In the Amazon, for example, there is the Folklore Festival of Parintins also known as the party of the Boi-Bumbá (Boi meaning Bull). Two bulls, one red and called Garantido (Guaranteed), the other blue and called Caprichoso (Very Skilled), challenge each other by making a presentation each night. Each team consists of more than three thousand people and are evaluated by the stories they tell. In the end, there is a prize giving, held in the Bumbódromo (kind of arena). The Parintins Festival is the largest open air opera in Latin America and the greatest folklore in the world.

The Bonecos de Olinda (Olinda dolls), is the biggest attraction of the Carnival of Olinda (Pernambuco), and are giant puppets made of paper mache, with a wood and Styrofoam structure. The tradition began in 1919 after a Belgian priest told a young Pernambucano about the traditions of some European parties. Inspired by this, he created a puppet 3.90m tall and called it Zé Pereira. Zé was so popular that, ten years later, he gained a companion called Vitalina that until this day are displayed in the streets during the carnival celebrations. Currently the number of dolls created exceeds 100 and pay homage to national and international icons like Obama, Mandela, Pele, among others. There is a permanent exhibition of dolls on display at the Embassy of Pernambuco, in Old Recife.

The Círio de Nazaré, held in Belém do Pará (State of Pará) since 1793, is a catholic procession in the name of Nossa Senhora de Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth), one of the titles given to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The procession, that dates back more than two centuries, takes about nine hours and starts at the Cathedral of Belém and ends at the Praça Santuário de Nazaré (The Square of the Shrine of Nazareth), where the image of the Virgin Mary is exhibited for 15 days for the public to offer their prayers and make their requests. About 2 million pilgrims and devotees from throughout Brazil participate each year.

The Festa Junina (June Party) is celebrated throughout Brazil. The party in Caruaru, Pernambuco, is considered the biggest in the world. It is famous for its coloured flags, balloons, dances, firecrackers and rockets, and especially the food: peanuts, corn, coconut, quentão (type of hot, mulled drink made with cachaça), pé-de-moleque (Brazilian sweet made with crushed nuts), sweet potatoes, etc…

In Pernambuco there is Maracatu, a traditional show derived from cultures of African and American Indian descent, in which two distinctive groups parade: percussionists (drums) and the court, formed of characters who tell the story of each group.  Every court must have a King and a Queen, a standard bearer and its Dama do Paço, amongst other roles. Women and spear throwers dress in colourful skirts made of cheap satin. The clothing can weigh at least 25 kilos and is made up of, amongst other things, a blanket of rhinestones and a set of bells that adorn their backs (known as Surrão). These days, as well as the Maracatu groups of Pernambuco (there are 10 important ones), there are many others throughout Brazil and overseas. In England there are five groups, with two in London: the Maracatu Estrela do Norte (North Star) and the Maracatudo Mafuá.

In Maranhão, there is the famous and classic Bumba-Meu-Boi (or Boi Bumba). This festival dates from the eighteenth century and mixes indigenous, European and African traditions. The festival tells the story of a period of cattle breeding by the slaves through theatre, music and dance, participants act out the abduction, death and resurrection of a bull.

Further south, in Goiás, there is the Cavalhadas, who represent a kind of medieval battle between Christians and Iberian Moors. Reuniting 24 horse riders, 12 red (Moors) and 12 blue (Christians), this party dates back to 1820. The population that follow the procession of the Cavalhada also participate, with appropriate costumes – and are dubbed – The Mascarados (The Masked).
In the Southeast Region of Brazil, the Festa do Divino (Party of the Divine), which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and occurs throughout the country, has one of its most important versions in São Luís do Paraitinga, in the city of Vale do Paraíba Sao Luis do Paraitinga (SP). It is held during the last ten days of June and attracts many people who seek blessings and who want to accompany the procession of the Divine.

In Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, during Semana Santa (Holy Week), the passion and resurrection of Christ are remembered with huge carpets made of coloured sawdust that line the streets and a procession, where children dress up as angels.

The revellers party non-stop, dancing and celebrating this most public affair: there are no restrictions at all in terms of age, gender, social background etc – nothing! Everyone happily parties together. And then afterwards, as they say, “the year can begin for real”.

In Vinhedo, a city in the state of São Paulo, the traditional Festa da Uva (Grape Festival) began in 1948, and since has 55 held festivals. Amongst the various attractions are the exhibition and sale of fruits, auctions of prized fruits, assorted crafts, a kid’s amusement park, concerts, dance recitals, a food court, a horse-riding show, a motorcycle convoy and much, much more.

Brazil also has other important parties like the Festa do Peão de Barretos in the state of São Paulo, the Lavagem da Escadaria do Bonfim (the washing of the Bonfim staircase), in front of the Senhor do Bonfim Basilica in Salvador (Bahia), and some well-known German celebrations like Oktoberfest. Check out the list of other parties and their regions:

Festival English Name Place Description Date
Festa de São Sebastião Saint Sebastian’s Festival Brasil Religious celebrations, masses and processions January
Festa do Bonfim Bonfim Festival Salvador, Bahia Event of religious syncretism, traditional washing of the staircase, masses and processions January
Festa de Navegantes Mariners’ Festival Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul Novena prayers, masses, processions, shows and gastronomy January (end of the month)
Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes Our Lady of the Mariners’ Festival Salvador, Bahia; Itajaí, Blumenau, Santa Catarina; and Porto Alegre, Navegantes, Rio Grande do Sul Religious event, with processions, novena prayers, masses in honour of the protector of mariners. Lasts 12 days, until 2 February January (end of the month), until the beginning of February
Festa da Uva Grape Festival Jundiaí, São Paulo Event which celebrates the grape harvest, with parties, markets, presentations and shows January (second half)
Festa da Uva Grape Festival Ponta Grossa, Paraná Event which celebrates the grape harvest, with markets, sales of grape products and shows January (second half)
Festa Nacional do Vinho (Fenavinho) National Wine Festival Bento Gonçalves, Rio Grande do Sul Event which occurs once every two years, with expositions, wine and grape tasting and shows January and February (every other year)
Festa da Melancia Watermelon Festival Arroio dos Ratos, Rio Grande do Sul Event put on by Watermelon producers, with shows and a beauty pageant February
Festa de Iemanjá Iemanjá Festival Brasil Celebration from the Afro-Brazilian calendar, in tribute to Iemanjá, African Goddess of Water 02/fev
Festa da Uva Grape Festival Caxias do Sul, Paraná Event which celebrates the grape harvest, with parties, markets, presentations and shows February/March
Festa da Melancia Watermelon Festival Jatobá do Piauí, Piauí Agricultural event, with mass, sporting and cultural competitions and shows March
Festa do Boi Falô Boi Falô Festival Campinas, São Paulo Gastronomy festival, with dance and roots music shows March
Festa da Pitomba Pitomba Festival Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Pernambuco Religious and cultural festival, with presentations, processions, speeches and shows March/April
Fepimenta Pepperfest Turuçu, Rio Grande do Sul Festival commemorating the pepper harvest April
Festa de Tradições da Ilha Island Traditions Festival São Francisco do Sul, Santa Catarina Cultural presentations, gastronomic and handcrafts event April
Festa do Quiririm Quiririm Festival Taubaté, São Paulo Local Italian community festival April (end of the month)
Expokennedy Expokennedy Presidente Kennedy, Espírito Santo Rodeo April (first half)
Festa de Nossa Senhora das Mercês Our Lady of Mercy Festival São João Del Rei, Minas Gerais Traditional religious celebration in honour of Our Lady of Mercy May
Festa das Nações Festival of Nations Vargem Grande do Sul, São Paulo Festival of folklore, culture and solidarity May
Triunfo Eucarístico Eucharistic Triumph Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais Regional religious and Baroque festival May
Festa Nacional do Chimarrão National Chimarrão Festival Venâncio Aires, Rio Grande do Sul Festival dedicated to agricultural produce, with an exposition, shows, theatre, a Motorcross competition and a beauty pageant May (two weekends)
Festa Nacional do Milho National Corn Festival Patos de Minas, Minas Gerais Big agricultural fair, with an exhibition park, rodeo, gastronomic events, auctions, shows, beauty pageant and sporting activities May (end of the month)
Festa Nacional do Pinhão National Pine Nut Festival Lages, Santa Catarina Themed festival, with national and regional shows, traditional dances and a singing competition May (end of the month)
Festa de Santo Antônio de Barbalha/Festa do Pau da Bandeira St. Anthony of Barbalha/Flagpole Festival Barbalha, Ceará Religious and cultural forms of expression from different local groups May/June
Festa do Mastro Mast Festival Capela, Sergipe; and Pirenópolis, Goiás Procession, marching, tree-felling and parties June
Forró Caju Forró Caju Aracaju, Sergipe June Festivities, with cultural activities and traditional regional music shows with nationally famous artists June
Mossoró Cidade Junina Mossoró City June fest Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte Traditional Brazilian June Festivities June
São João Saint John Campina Grande, Paraíba One of the country’s biggest St John’s Festival celebrations June
Festa dos Caminhoneiros Truck drivers Festival Itabaiana, Sergipe Festival with religious presentations and musical shows June (first half)
Festa Junina/Folguedo/Quermesse June Festivities/Merriment/Kermess Brasil Festivals paying tribute to Saint John June/July
Festa do Ovo Egg Festival Bastos, São Paulo Regional Avicultural and agricultural event, with speeches, exhibitions and shows, during three days July
Festa do Vinho Wine Festival Andradas, Minas Gerais; and Urussanga, Santa Catarina  Parade, shows and events paying tribute to the wine producing region July
Festiqueijo Cheese fest Carlos Barbosa, Rio Grande do Sul Gastronomic event, with exhibition and cheese and wine tasting, and shows July
Romaria dos Cavaleiros de Santana Pilgrimage of the Knights of Santana Analândia, São Paulo Procissão religiosa em homenagem à Sant’Ana Religious procession in honour of St Ana July
Festa de aniversário de Padre Cícero Religious event to celebrate Padre Cícero birthday Juazeiro, Ceará Religious event to celebrate Padre Cícero birthday July
Festa da Polenta de Santa Olímpia Santa Olímpia Polenta Festival Piracicaba, São Paulo Gastronomic festival, with choral presentations and folk dancing July (end of the month)
Festa do Peão de Tujuguaba Rancher of Tujuguaba Festival Conchal, São Paulo Rodeo and shows July (end of the month), until the beginning of August
Festa do Senhor Bom Jesus Good Lord Jesus Festival Tremembé, São Paulo Meeting of Drovers and travellers for masses and prayers beside the sanctuary paying tribute to Jesus July (end of the month), until the beginning of August
Festa do São Pedro de Belém Saint Peter Festival, Belém Belém, Paraíba Traditional Brazilian June Festivities July (first weekend)
Festa Nacional da Cenoura National Carrot Festival São Gotardo, Minas Gerais  Festival promoted by the agricultural sector paying tribute to the municipality’s culture July (second half)
Festa Nacional do Boi no Rolete Ox on a Spit National Festival Marechal Cândido Rondon, Paraná Event with two fairs (Expomar and Expopecuária) for industry, commerce and services from the agricultural and agribusiness sectors July (second half)
Festitália Italy fest Blumenau, Santa Catarina Gastronomic and cultural festival dedicated to Italian culture, with traditional dishes and presentations from folk groups and singers July (second half)
Festribal Tribal fest Juruti, Pará Festival for the city’s native indigenous culture, among the Amazon’s biggest cultural events, and is known for its traditional confrontation between the Mundurucu tribe (red and yellow) and the Muirapinima (red and blue); with shows as well July (end of the month), until the beginning of August
Festa Nacional do Kiwi National Kiwi Festival Farroupilha, Rio Grande do Sul Promoted by the City Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Services, with exhibitions, traditional gastronomy, cultural and sporting activities and shows July and August
Festa de Santana Santana Festival Caicó, Rio Grande do Norte Religious and cultural programming July/August
Congada do Terno de Sainha Irmãos Paiva Terno de Sainha Irmãos Paiva Group’s Congada Santo Antônio da Alegria, São Paulo Religious-folkloric festival, with afro-Brazilian origins, the group has over 100 years of tradition. August
Festa de Aparecida Aparecida Festival São Manuel, São Paulo Festival of worship for Our Lady Aparecida August
Festa de São Joaquim e São Roque St. Joachim and St. Roch Festival Joaquim Egídio, São Paulo Celebration for the patron saints, with masses and shows August
Festa do Peão de Boiadeiro Herdsman’s boy Festival Barretos, São Paulo Biggest and most important rodeo, with concurrent events and shows August
Festa Nacional do Charque Dried meat Festival Candói, Paraná Country rodeo, cavalcade, exhibitions and shows August (end of the month)
Nossa Senhora Achiropita Our Lady Achiropita São Paulo, São Paulo Festival in honour of the patron saint of the Italians August (weekends)
Auto da Liberdade Freedom Festival Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte Stage spectacular (sometimes open-air), which mixes theatre, music and dance September
Festa de São Benedito St. Benedict Festival Tietê, São Paulo Religious programming, procession and cultural activities September
Festa do Sairé Sairé Festival Santarém, Pará Processions and folk demonstrations to the rhythm of traditional Carimbó dance September
Festa Nacional da Costela National Rib Festival União da Vitória, Paraná Gastronomic festival by cattle producers, with a fair, exhibition and shows September
Semana Farroupilha Farroupilha Revolution Week Rio Grande do Sul Festival with gaúcho traditions (gaúcho = from Rio Grande do Sul), which commemorates the declaration of the Republic of Rio Grande do Sul September
Pomitafro Pomitafro Vila Pavão, Espirito Santo Cultural event which honours Pomeranian, Italian and African cultures September (end of the month)
Festa das Etnias Ethnicities Festival Criciúma, Santa Catarina Cultural and gastronomic event with musical shows September (first half)
Festa de Nossa Senhora do Rosário Our Lady of the Rosary Festival Aracati, Ceará Religious homage to the city’s patron saint, with masses, canticles and novena prayers September/October
Fenarreco Fenarreco Brusque, Santa Catarina National Marreco (Garganey) Duck Festival – gastronomic event October
Festa da Polenta Polenta Festival Venda Nova do Imigrante, Espírito Santo  Gastronomic event, with beauty pageant, musical presentations and traditional dance October
Festa da Primavera Spring Festival Curitiba, Paraná Event with flower exhibitions, bazaars and arts and crafts October
Festa de Santa Teresinha St. Teresa Festival Tietê, São Paulo  Bazaar, gastronomy, shows and religious events October
Festa do Rosário Rosary Festival Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais Over 300 year old religious event from the local black community, with folklore and shows October
OktoberFemorango Strawberry October Fair Turuçu, Rio Grande do Sul Cultural fair, arts and crafts, shows and sales of strawberry derived products October
Oktoberfest Oktoberfest Blumenau, Santa Catarina; Guaramiranga, Ceará; Missões, Rio Grande do Sul; Olinda and Recife, Pernambuco; Rolândia, Paraná; Santa Cruz do Sul; Rio Grande do Sul Traditional German style festival, dedicated to beer; with an events, produce and cultural fair October
Congada/Congado Congada/Congado Minas Gerais, Goiás Folkloric merriment which mixes religious and traditional historic cults from the Congo October (during the Nossa Senhora do Rosário festival)
Schützenfest – Festa do Tiro Shot Festival Blumenau, Santa Catarina Traditional German beer festival November
Festa Nacional do Chope Escuro (München Fest) National Dark Draught Beer Festival Ponta Grossa, Paraná Beverage themed event, with shows, beauty pageant and musical parades November (end of the month), until the beginning of December
Marejada Marejada Itajaí, Santa Catarina Cultural and gastronomic event, with musical events, which culminates with the traditional arrival of the sailboats of the French regatta Transat Jacques Vabre November (first half)
Festa da Conceição da Praia Beach Conception Festival Salvador, Bahia Religious procession honouring the Immaculate Conception December
Festa do Caju Cashew Festival Jaçanã, Rio Grande do Norte Agricultural event, with musical shows, beauty pageant and fruit expo December
Natal Christmas Natal, Rio Grande do Norte Christmas festival December
Natal Luz Christmas Lights Gramado, Rio Grande do Sul Christmas festival December
Sonho de Natal Christmas Dream Canela, Rio Grande do Sul Christmas festival December
Cavalo Marinho Sea Horse Olinda, Pernambuco Scenic party to honour the Three Kings December (Christmas period)
Festa do Divino Espírito Santo Holy Spirit Festival Brasil Religious event, with processions, novena prayers and masses, as well as folkloric activities Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Easter)
Procissão do Fogaréu Cresset Procession Brasil Religious procession which symbolizes the search for and the arrest of Christ During Easter
Folguedo Merriment Brasil Popular, playful festivals in diverse regions of Brazil. Some have religious origins, either from Catholicism, or African and folkloric traditions Various dates

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