Carnaval, Mardi Gras, Lent

Here in the Northeast USA its barely been a winter and THANK GOODNESS (or Al Gore) for that!  Last Winter was a true burden in every sense of the word.  Nearly every week 1′ or 30cm of snow fell.  Temperatures have been mild and there was only one bad snow storm on Halloween, the only type of its kind in recorded history.  So here it is late February and we barely realized Winter is here now that it has mostly passed .  How ironic this week starts off with Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and of course Lent for Catholics all over the world.

Lent, for those of you who don’t know, is about 40 days of fasting, abstaining and generally “laying off the good stuff” just as Jesus did while wandering in the dessert before his crucifixion after the Last Supper (a Passover Seder) and of course, Easter Sunday when he rose from the Dead.

 This is a screen shot from the Sambódromo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (like a Super Dome, this one is specifically designed for Samba Parades and Carnaval).  There are much better photos online, but I did not want to borrow anyone’s photos without permission.  If you can actually see it on TV in HD its spectacular, even mind blowing.  Thousands and thousands of dancers and singers aside from the nearly 100,000 spectators.  Its a half mile stretch (700 meters) with bleachers on both sides.  Samba schools start rehearsing here in December for the February show known as Carnaval.  Floats, dancers and singers are judged by points and it puts any holiday parade here in the USA or any Military parade show off its nuclear arsenal to shame.

Carnaval takes place Saturday night, Sunday night, and again Monday and is absolutely a competition. These “samba schools” practice all year for their one night of competition. They dance and sing in front of the judges for one hour hoping to win the award. What’s amazing is none of the participants are professional performers, and most of them are poor people who spend every free minute and every spare centavo on this one night.

The beauty of this is it celebrates Brazil’s diversity, from the Amazon Indians to the colonization from Europe, witchcraft, the Catholic church and everything else you can imagine.  Sure, there are plenty of scantily clad women rapidly shaking their hips, as is the style of samba dancing, but once you are drawn into this parade of all parades you will soon find its elaborate display far more fascinating.  The costumes, the enormity, the energy, its just mind-boggling, especially along with the organization of the processional.

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