While most people are aware that Brazil’s Carnival is massive, vibrant celebration that prepares participants for the sacrifices that they will make during Lent, those who have never attended are often unaware of finer points of the festivities. From rich, beautiful costuming to the indulgences that celebrants enjoy, Carnival is an excellent farewell to the pleasures that the faithful deny themselves during the 40 days leading up to Easter.
1. While the origins of Carnival are disagreed upon by some, others are certain that the festivities began as a celebration of the Roman festival, Saturnalia, as well as to honor the Roman god of wine, Bacchus. The event’s association with Saturnalia, which preceded the Christmas holiday, was eventually dropped in favor of Easter.
2. The Roman Catholic Church strongly influenced the changes that the festival underwent; it is still argued today as to whether or not the Church wholly approved of the evolution of Carnival into the decadent event that it has become.
3. The masks and costumes that are so widely recognized throughout Brazil and the rest of the world orginiated in 1870, when Carnival became a festival of the people rather than just belonging to the emperor and the aristocracy.
4. While Carnival’s origins reach back into the 1800s, the tradition of Samba began later; the poor started forming their Samba Schools in 1928, but members of the middle and upper classes did not join in until the 1960s, with widespread participation taking hold in Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s.
5. Carnival and all of the dancing, eating and drinking that it entails ends each year on Fat Tuesday, which is also known as Shrove Tuesday; the next is day is Ash Wednesday, and marks the beginning of Lent and the sacrifices that Christians make as a nod to tradition and to the tenets of a faith that believes that Christ sacrificed a mortal life on the cross.