Carnival (or Carnaval if you’re a Portuguese speaker), is known for its vivid colors, celebratory nudity, loud music, and extravagant costumes. These are activities that the average person doesn’t tend to associate with religion. However, carnival originated as a catholic tradition; it was a food festival where people would gather and eat as much as they could before fasting for lent. Carnival, in fact, is latin for ‘carne vale,’ which means, ‘farewell to the meat.’ Today, this festival has morphed into a long party and celebrated throughout Latin America and The Caribbean, with some of its more famous festivals in Trinidad and Brazil.
The carnival in Brazil is a mix of its European and African roots, with Samba becoming the token genre of the parades and festivities. A large staple in ‘Carnaval Brasileiro,’ or Brazilian Carnival, is the samba schools. Different samba schools compete and showcase their own unique themes, flag and dance routines.
In Trinidad and Tobago, dancers would flood the streets covered in paint, mud and grease while dancing to genres like soca and calypso.
Carnival’s traditions eventually moved over to The United States in the form of Mardi Gras, traditionally celebrated in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Dancers traditionally wear two piece costumes complete with feather, intricate beading, and bright colors; the makeup is usually dramatic or people attend with their adorned with masks.
The eye-catching, two-piece garb is worn by people of all body types. Bigger bodies are not only accepted, but celebrated. The women at these events take ownership of their own bodies and celebrate being sexual beings. It is not, as many have called it, “vulgar’ or “lewd,” it is freeing. Any woman can put on the extravagant outfits and “bust a wine” and the crowd will either “bust it” along with her, or cheer her on. She could be a size 2 or a size 14; she could be lanky or muscular. The body type, color, ethnicity, age, or appearance of the woman does not matter; all that matters is the celebration.
The point of the carnival is to be extravagant: get all the stress out of your system, eat as much as you want, drink as much as you want, wear what you want, sin a little, or sin a lot, before you return to your reality.
The culture surrounding carnival in any country is jubilation and unity. Brazilians walk up to strangers and kiss them on the street, a Trinidadian man and woman will dance together surrounded by thousands of other people who are there to celebrate.
…. And to ‘bussa wine.’