Rio de Janeiro Carnival: Customs and Traditions

South America Travel Posted on 03/01/2019

Looking for things to do in Rio de Janeiro? If you have ever traveled to Brazil around Easter, you must have had the fortune of witnessing the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. This is the top of Things to do in Rio de Janeiro and once in a lifetime experience, we guarantee no regrets, only fun and memorable experiences! Let´s learn a little bit more about it.

Updated to April 2024

The Carnival

A wild celebration of food, music, alcohol, and fun is what describes the Rio de Janeiro Carnival best. Held in Brazil, this carnival is often called the calm before the storm; calm is basically the 40-day period of repentance, fasting, and abstinence observed by many Christians before Easter. The battery is, of course, the carnival, marked by four wild days of dancing, parades, and ostentatious partying, for all ages.

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

The History Behind the Carnival

The Rio de Janeiro Carnival was primarily introduced by the Portuguese around 1850 and its main traditions basically stemmed from the posh parties in Paris, including masquerade balls and parties held at this time of the year. The Brazilians, however, brought their own twist to the event and morphed it into a unique version of their own. Their version also included elements from the African culture and various other indigenous cultural backgrounds.

Customs and Traditions

Eventually, this grand carnival ended up incorporating tons of parades, balls, dancing, music, elaborate festive costumes, and so much more. A very unique tradition also developed within the carnival where people would come dressed up in opposing roles. So, men would come dressed as women, rich as poor, and aristocrats as commoners. The carnival is held all over the country where each region displays a different celebration however, the Rio de Janeiro’s celebration is by far the most unique and magnificent that draws around 500,00 foreigners each year from around the world.

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Crowing of a King

The carnival begins with an elaborate ceremony in which the city of Rio presents its key to King Momo, the mythological Greek God of mockery, who is represented by a very large man at the carnival. King Momo’s main job is to kick-start the massive celebrations at the carnival by opening the balls and the parades, ensuring that everyone has the time of their lives at the carnival.

Elaborate Carnival Balls

Alongside the never-ending street parties and spontaneous parades, the Rio de Janeiro carnival is also popular for its costume balls held at the Scala nightclub. The first in line is the Black Ball that is dedicated to Rio’s soccer team. Other numerous balls include the marvelous City Ball, the Long Live the Beer Ball, and many others. One defining aspect of this carnival is that the black communities are the most enthusiastic participants in the event. This is particularly due to their historical love of the carnival since several African slaves were freed every year for the carnival.

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

The next time you go to Brazil, make sure to participate in this spectacular affair, as you dance all day and night and fill yourself up with tons of food and drinks.

Check out our tours to South America and jump into this Brazilian adventure! Do not forget to book it with plenty of time, because the entire world is preparing to see this spectacle every year!

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