Readers and revelers, how about checking out some curiosities about Carnival?

Carnival, like many other celebrations around the world - Christmas and Easter are examples - has its roots in paganism. The custom arose in ancient Greece around 600 and 520 BC and was originally a spring festival during which the Greeks thanked the gods for their fertility and abundant harvest.

“Bacchanalia” by Nicolas Poussin Image source: Reproduction / Brazil Carnival

One of the many honored deities was Dionysus, the god of wine, and later the Romans eventually adopted the same tradition to celebrate Saturnalia when they also honored Bacchus, who was as the god of wine was known in Rome. During this time, classes in Roman schools were suspended, slaves were released, and everyone took to the streets to celebrate.

“Ave, Caesar! Io, Saturnalia! ”By Lawrence Alma-Tadema Image source: Reproduction / Wikipedia

Regarding the origin of the word "carnival", some believe that it came from the term carrum navalis, which were cars carrying naked Roman men and women in parades during Sarturnalia. Another possibility is that the word originated from the expression carnem levare - or goodbye to meat in Latin - since the feasts preceded Lent, during which Christians should not eat meat.

End of joy

“The Fight between Dom Carnaval and Dona Quaresma”, by Pieter Brueghel Image source: Reproduction / Wikipedia

Going back to antiquity, the festivities, as you can imagine, were watered up, and of course there was a lot of mess during the celebrations. With the rise of Christianity, many of the pagan customs were being incorporated into the new religion, and the Catholic Church, which also adopted the tradition, banished the "sinful acts" that took place at the festivals, replacing drunkenness and orgies with religious rituals.

This occurred around the year 590, and Carnival only became a popular festival in Europe in the 16th century. Each town and village celebrated in their own way, incorporating their local traditions and customs. Masquerade and costume parades did not appear until around the 19th century, when they were introduced by Victorian society, and Paris was responsible for spreading this party pattern to the rest of the world.

Origins in Brazil

Augustus Earle's “Games during the Shrovetide in Rio” Image source: Reproduction / Wikipedia

As this is a European festival, evidently the Portuguese immigrants brought the custom to Brazil. In the old days, however, the “face” of Carnival was very different from the current one, and the festivities were inspired by the Portuguese version, called Entrudo. The party consisted of taking to the streets and soaking each other with buckets of water, and there were also real wars of mud and even food that often ended in confusion.

Image Source: Reproduction / Brazil Carnival

Over time, things became more organized and the festivities became increasingly popular and, as in Europe, various cultural elements were being incorporated. Soon the parades were appearing in which people took to the streets in costume and masked, and it was only later - around the 18th and 19th centuries - that floats made their first appearances, as well as the Carnival blocks.

Popularization of the party

Image source: Reproduction / Wikipedia

However, it is a little tricky to establish exactly when the Brazilian Carnival turned into the world famous party it is today, especially Rio de Janeiro (without disregarding the parties in other capitals). The samba itself, whose music and dance are integral parts of the event, emerged from an eclectic mix of rhythms and has a strong influence of African culture, brought by the freed slaves who lived in the carioca capital.

The first known Brazilian Carnival Ball took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1840, and the event was reportedly organized by an Italian actress wishing to reproduce the Carnival of Venice. The first block was founded in 1855 by a group of intellectuals that included the writer José de Alencar, and was called the "Congress of Carnival Sums." At that time, however, those who participated in the parades were the elite, not the people.

Image Source: Shutterstock

The first song composed especially for the Carnival was written by Chiquinha Gonzaga - with "Ô Opens Alas!" - and was created for the string Rosas de Ouro, which paraded through the streets of Rio during the parties. Already the term samba school emerged in the late 1920s, when the composer Ismael Silva decided to bring together the main samba dancers of the neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro Estácio, to form a samba wheel in front of the old Normal School.

The four days of celebration that today mark the Marvelous City's tourist calendar were only consolidated from 1963, when the Salgueiro group paraded to the sound of a plot about Chica da Silva. With the popularization of the parades, in the 70's the organizers were forced to set a time limit for each school, and in the 80's the parades were moved from the streets to the Sambadrome, built by Oscar Niemeyer.

* Originally Posted on 28/02/14