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15 Facts You May Not Know About Rio Carnival
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VIP Journeys / Blog  / Top 15 Facts You May Not Know About Rio Carnival

Top 15 Facts You May Not Know About Rio Carnival

We’re just 10 days out from the beginning of Rio Carnival season on February 18 and only a few more days away from the official kick off of Rio de Janeiro’s biggest party of the year on February 24— Rio Carnival 2017!

Although Carnival, which has its roots in Catholicism, is celebrated in almost 70 countries around the world (many of them in Latin America), you don’t have to be a jetsetter to know that Rio’s renowned soirée is the granddaddy of them all.

We’ve already shared our list of the Top 15 Carnival Celebrations in Latin America, and we highly recommend checking it out to begin pre-planning for the 2018 Rio celebrations since it’s unlikely you’ll be able to squeeze into the “marvelous city” with only a week’s notice (though you could probably get in some last minute travel to a few of the lesser known locales on our list).

This year, we thought it would be fun to share some things you may not have heard about this magnetic event. From its old school origins and booming modern economy, to some unusual traditions and things you won’t want to miss, here is our list of 15 facts you may not know about Rio’s Carnival:

1. The very first Carnival was based on Portuguese tradition and dates all the way back to 1723 when working class crowds threw lime-scented water on each other.

2. Carnival celebrations actually mark the beginning of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, where Christians focus on fasting, prayer and simple living.

3. Mythical King Momo presides over the celebration, and the city’s mayor even gives him the keys to the city for the week.

4. The Rio Carnival is often called “the world’s biggest party,” and it’s classified in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest Carnival.

5. Nearly a million visitors flood Rio each year, and more than 2 million people take to the streets of the city each day during the celebration.

6. The total income from the Rio Carnival is in excess of $40 million annually in ticket sales, T.V. rights, CD sales, advertising, sponsorships and costumes.

7. There are around 600 themed block parties in Rio during Carnival week— last year, one even paid tribute to musician David Bowie.

8. Ten million liters of beer are consumed in Salvador each year—- imagine what the number must be in Rio!

9. Although there are parades throughout the city, the main parade is held in the Sambadrome.

10. The majority of Brazilians have never been inside the Sambadrome for the big Carnival celebration. Instead, many watch it on television or leave the city for quieter beach and country retreats.

11. Several hundred samba schools participate in the festivities.

12. The dozen or so largest samba schools combined spend nearly $5 million on their shows.

13. Most of the samba schools are located in (or just on the outskirts of) favelas, of which there are more than 1,000 in Rio.

14. The communities surrounding each samba school participate in the prep work for the shows, and each school can employ thousands of designers, painters, musicians, dancers, seamstresses and more. It’s a real neighborhood affair!

Best carnival celebrations in Latin America

15. Rio’s famed women’s costumes have gotten skimpier over the years due to liberal viewpoints and the summer heat, but they’re still some of the most elaborate in the world. Although the costumes are typically sewn with a machine, the millions of feathers, beads and spangles are sewn on by hand.

If you’d like to begin planning your bucket list Rio Carnival trip, contact us today (accommodations fill up fast) to talk about your dream Latin America vacation.