Rio Carnival is one of the biggest, boldest and brightest events in the Brazilian calendar.
The Carnival is an annual event that always begins on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. This year, that date is 21 February. It spans the following few days, finishing on Ash Wednesday (26 February), the day Lent begins.
All the main samba competitions between rival dance schools and parades take place in the Sambadrome – a purpose-built parade area created for the Carnival. After the official events, the party spills out onto the streets in every corner of the city.
Rio Carnival is both rooted in European pagan traditions and Catholicism. It was originally a food festival, when people would take their last opportunity to gorge before the beginning of Lent, traditionally a time of abstinence and fasting in the Catholic Church.
But the unique feel of the Carnival comes from the culture clash between the Portuguese colonisers and the indigenous people. The settlers bought over the tradition of Entrudo (Carnival) from Europe, where it met with the local population’s passion for music and dance.