There are two types of people in this world: Those that like to put on costumes and those that don’t. If you’re in the second group, don’t continue reading. Well, actually, go ahead and keep on reading. You’ll most certainly pass over to the dark side when you see what’s happening at the best Carnival celebrations around the world. Don’t be a spoil sport and join the party!
Carnival in Viareggio
27 January – 17 February 2018
Tuscany! That dreamy place with cypress trees, wine and gastronomy… Tuscany is idyllic and refined, even when it comes to its Carnival celebrations. Because Carnevale di Viareggio was originally a protest by the upper bourgeoisie. It was a manifestation against their taxes being raised. Boom.
Well, regardless of how fair it was, the truth is nowadays this Carnival celebration is one of the most beautiful in Italy. Outlandish paper maché floats parade down the streets there each year, leaving nothing about the Valencian “fallas” to envy. Many of them are political satires such as the huge Trump float seen in 2017 with enormous blonde paper bangs, which made Viareggio great again.
In short, the Carnival in Viareggio is endless craziness in which everyone can participate. If you don’t want to get people’s attention… wear a costume!
Carnival in Cadiz
8 – 18 February 2018
Careful!! This is one of the biggest festivals on the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, it is so well-known it’s been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest. But, that’s not all.
The Carnival in Cadiz dates back as far as the 16th century. Yes, that was also when the Spanish Armada disaster occurred, but whatever! They already had a Carnival celebration in Cadiz. At least that’s something.
At the end of January, the city already starts smelling of a part even before it officially begins. During the run-up to Carnival in Cadiz, the Carnival groups start practicing to take their best performance to competition and the festival clubs start offering passersby traditional food like honey-coated fritters, large oysters (he he) and anise.
Everyone participates. And, that’s why so many groups bring it to life like the people making the opening speeches, the balladeers and dance troupes. Special mention goes to the Carnival groups.
When this major event begins, parades, opening speeches and street performances are everywhere. And, then there are the costumes which they actually don’t call costumes but rather ‘tipos’ because the people wearing them really have to believe in and incarnate them. Are you up for it?
Carnival on the Canary Islands
Between January and February 2018
According to the local newspaper “La Opinion de Tenerife”, tourists’ favorite Carnival destination is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Yet the islands in January and February actually become gardens of ostentatiousness and tradition – it’s quite the spectacle. After all, we could write a book about the Carnival celebrations on the Canary Islands!
The Carnival celebrations in Las Palmas are famous, even internationally, because of the great drag traditions, the eye-catching personification work and the LGTB rights component. It’s quite the example.
Of course, there’s Carnival on Tenerife: one of the most important celebrations in the world which creates quite the craze with the parades, shows and Carnival Queen Election Gala. The Coso parade ends the festival on a high note and the next day, Carnival groups and tourists alike are saying goodbye to the tragicomic Sardine Burial. A must see!
Santa Cruz de La Palma also celebrates Carnival, opening with the peculiar Indian festival. It’s an event during which the locals do caricatures of themselves, looking back on the period when their emigrant ancestors came back from Cuba boasting of the wealth they had accumulated. And what exactly did that celebration consist of? Basically, dressing up in white, dancing in the streets and throwing talcum powder around to fully cover the city.
If we all took things so lightly, there wouldn’t be any wars. The world should learn a lesson from the Canary Islands!
Carnival in Rio
9 – 14 February 2018
The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The most famous one in the world. And a must-do if you love crowded festivals. Because it sure is crowded.
The main parade takes place at the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí. You’ve certainly already seen it. It’s an impressive spectacle of color and sound from the giant floats and costumed musicians and dancers. But, above all, it’s the largest samba event in the world where schools defend a different theme each year through dance. It’s a crucial time as they compete for the best Carnival school title. Just imagine!
Each school takes hundreds of people to the parade to represent them, divided into different sections, and each section has a different role in the parade.
Although the main parade happens at the Sambadrome, there are also many little parties known as ‘blocos’, which can be seen in the nearby streets with more parades and performances.
On an interesting note, animal lovers will be happy to know that pets also have their own celebration. Just days before the official Carnival celebration, the Copacabana beach organizes Blocao, a canine carnival event where dogs parade down their own runway wearing the most sophisticated of attire.
Maybe now you can get an idea of the size of this festival. Or not. That would be impossible. You have to experience it to believe it.
9th – 13th February 2018
The Mardi Gras celebration arrived in New Orleans sometime in the 19th century through European influence. Since the US is a bit small (ahem), people started spreading the word on this peculiar event and that’s how New Orleans became famous for its own Carnival.
Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in reference to the big Carnival day in New Orleans. And it certainly is just that. Millions of people visit this event each year to enjoy the awesome atmosphere, strange floats and, above all, the “krewes” and themed dances or marching clubs.
Don’t be surprised to see locals setting up rows of ladders to watch. After all, you have to have a good view for a show like this, don’t you think?
And if you want a souvenir from Mardi Gras, forget the postcards or magnets. It’s much more authentic to get your hands on one of those necklaces they throw from the floats. But, you’ll have to grab it in the air, otherwise it’s not fair!
As you can see, Mardi Gras is much like our Wise Men parade than our Carnival celebrations. And not just because of the prized items thrown from the floats, but also because of the event’s traditional food: a King Cake. It’s a round cake that looks much like the Spanish King’s Day pastry. Sound familiar? Just switch the caramelized fruit with colorful sugar beads.
Any other similarities? The King Cakes have little figurines. Whoever finds one has to pay.