Brazilian Carnival 101

carnival david peinsipp

Every year Rio de Janeiro, Brazil holds a four-day-long celebration known as Carnival, lasting from February 5th to the 9th. It is a world famous festival that takes place just before lent. It is the largest carnival in the world where over two million people take to the streets every day of the festival. These festivities are believed to date back to the early 1700’s.

Carnival essentially involves parades and parties that are filled with partygoers, floats, and other ornamentation from over 200 samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. These Samba schools are delineated into divisions and parade in accordance with each division ranking.

While these samba parades are the most iconic events of Carnival, there are other celebrations that happen on the streets of Rio. Known as blocos or bandas, free street parties happen before, during, and after the days of Carnival across the city. Generally, these blocos revolve around a band, either one that travels around a route on a sound truck or remains static in one location.

Each bloco can vary in size, attracting a couple hundred to one million people and the parties begin around 7am and last till sunset and beyond, with beach parties stretching along Ipanema beach.

These blocos may also be associated with a specific neighborhood, restaurant, celebrity, or district and may have a theme or concentration. Some may be more traditional and focus on samba and the revered history of Carnival. While other blocos may be more contemporary, like the Beatles-themed Bloco do Sargento Pimenta.

The nature of Carnival and attending a bloco is partaking in the fun, free-spirited celebrations. Many people dress up in costumes both traditional and comical. If attending, be prepared to be utterly surrounded by people looking to just have a fun, festive time. Beer is free-flowing and music is loud.

If attending for the first time, consider heading to to get all the details you could possibly need for what is happening, when, where, and what you should do!