The Greatest Street Party on Earth: The Brazilian Carnival

A week ago today, Brazilians were waking up to enjoy the country's most celebrated annual festival: the Carnival, or rather, the biggest extravaganza on Earth that draws millions of people onto the streets of the many cities all over the country. It is one of many European imports that having mixed Native, African and European elements, have found their own flavor, colours and fame in Brazil.

Nevermind the worldwide economic crisis, or Brazil's own everyday crises – it is carnival as usual. The numbers for domestic and international tourism were above expectations and higher than last year's, following the trend for yearly growth. It was expected that 719,000 international tourists would visit Rio de Janeiro alone (last year, there were 705,000). And with the dollar on a high, many of the Brazilians who would normally spend their holidays abroad decided to have a carnival at home, traveling within the country.

During Carnival, people dress up, indulge themselves or just take the always welcomed opportunity of time off to recharge batteries. The country grinds to a halt during the celebration, and many say the new year only begins after carnival. It is impossible not to laugh at people's creativity when it comes to making costumes with a pinch of irreverence, sense of humour and an eye for local and international current affairs. Here are some of the best photos licensed under Creative Commons posted on Flickr.

“First” day, Saturday, 21st


Not enough room to swing an umbrella! In Recife, Carnival starts officially with Galo da Madrugada, Brazil's biggest carnival “bloco”, figuring in the The Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest carnival parade in the world. Photo by Felipe Ferreira (FF).


The condom man in Recife, photo by carlosoliveirareis. During Carnival, authorities give out millions of condoms, but still, a baby boom is always expected nine months after.


Another very elaborated costume: an ironing lady in the streets of Recife, in photo by carlosoliveirareis.


Revelers at São Paulo's Sambodromo. Photo by André Cherri.

Forgiveness Sunday, 22nd


Rodrigo Soldon has a shot at the Mona Lisa, enjoying herself at Rio Canival.


Cordão do Boitatá, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by by Luciano Joaquim


For those who can not spend much time away from social network sites, here is the Orkut costume. Rio de Janeiro. Photo by URBefotos.


Fidel Castro also visited Olinda for Carnival. Photo by Ádria de Souza/Pref.Olinda. Among other politicians, Barack Obama was also spotted in many parts of the country, but unfortunately, the lucky papparrazzi did not upload their pictures under a Creative Commons license.

Clean Monday, 23rd


The Iraqi journalist, Bush and the flying shoe enjoyed themselves in Olinda. You know the background. Photo by Ádria de Souza/Pref.Olinda


A kiss from actress Paola Oliveira, the drum queen of Grande Rio Samba School, one among 30 schools to compete in the Samba School Parade. Photo by dubiella.


The winning school in Rio de Janeiro was Salgueiro. Photo by ane aguirre.

Shrove Tuesday, 24th


Venice? No, Olinda! Photo by Ádria de Souza/Pref.Olinda


Jumping non stop in São Paulo. Photo by Cristiano Caniche.


No pancake day in Brazil, the last day of Carnival is melancholy – early hours, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Ana Pinta, to which a flickr user commented: “pretty much like Rio de Janeiro scenery”.

Ash Wednesday, 25th


A wishful thinker in Olinda counts down to next year's party holding a sign that says “Calm down, there are only 353 days left”. Photo by Ádria de Souza/Pref.Olinda

This year's carnival has now officially come to an end, and although the celebration usually goes on for another unofficial week of Carnival “hangover” parties, 2009 may now begin.


  • […] Globo Voices publicou uma matéria falando sobre o carnaval brasileiro de 2009. Algumas fotos de […]

  • Archie1954

    My son’s girfriend JJ just got back from Rio today and is at our place right now. She said it was one of the most amazing times of her life. She was absolutely astounded by the parades and costuming. She said that at a huge dance party there were 90,000 people. I’m sorry but I can’t evem imagine such a thing. Apparently there were something like 714,000 tourists there for Carnival this year. What a party!

  • Wonderful article, my dear Paula! You can never be congratulated enough for all these wonderful pieces of information and imagery you weave together. But here are my congratulations, anyway!

    (I am one of those gauche Brazilians who don’t like Carnaval, but the beauty of the images that can be obtained at the Carnaval parties, and the cultural richness of these days, are undeniable!)


    • Thank you Daniel for the kind comments – writing up this piece and looking at nearly 8,000 pics to select a few was a joy to me :)

      I believe people who say they don’t like Carnival is because they have never been to Olinda’s, my favorite place ever in February. Try the week before, called pré carnaval next year to have a taste!

      • You’re right, my dear Paula. I’ve never been to Olinda. Maybe I can change my mind once I visit the beautiful city at the right time. But I’ve been in Rio during Carnaval plenty of times and, besides being an impressively beautiful party, I couldn’t have felt more alien to it. :)


  • Pleased to link one of your articles again on our website, Paula.


  • Hannah

    Hello. Brazil has many different activities over 150 a day . This just shows how many brilliant colours and people brazil has. Good job on the post it was very well written. I have been researching about the city of Sao Paulo when I cam across this post. It looks like it would be a very magical sight to see.

  • And Paula is completely right when she days that “in Brazil, the year only begins after the Carnaval”. It’s impressive, and very real! Try to use public service, or even private ones, in Brazil before Carnaval and you’ll understand. There’s a feeling of “can’t you wait until after the Carnaval, my friend?” in every attendant’s voice and eyes…

    Daniel Duende.

  • Looks like tons of fun!

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