Carnival in Portugal

carnaval au portugal

Carnival in Portugal has been celebrated for hundreds of years; carnival is one of the oldest festivals of mankind where the evil spirits of winter were chased away with the help of masks, songs and parades. The gods were also asked for a prosperous harvest.

The Catholic Church took over the festival; people were allowed to fool around for a while before the start of Lent, during which they were not allowed to eat meat for 40 days and had to reflect before being allowed to celebrate Easter.

The Portuguese love celebrations and especially Carnival.

People dress up in costumes, TV characters, movies, cartoons, monsters, ghosts, witches, or animals. 

The Portuguese imagination is overflowing and the costumes are usually colourful. Many get together and prepare the costume party months in advance; they choose a theme and make their own costumes and parade float. 

Political and social events are criticised with humour and satire. In many cities, the municipal authorities organise parades, set up stages and provide space for dancing, as this is mainly a street event and in the evening a popular ball.

The festival lasts five days;

It starts on Friday: little children are often dressed up in a herd of baby animals. All the schools in the region take part in the parade through the town and many parents and grandparents come to watch the show. The city centre is also closed to traffic.

The programme varies from town to town, but there is usually an evening parade on Saturday and Sunday afternoon and then on Tuesday. On Tuesday evening, fires are lit and the Santo Entrudo/Saint Carnival doll is burned.

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent.

Each year, a woman and a man are chosen to be the "reis do carnaval", the royal couple of the carnival; they are the central figures and stand on the first float.

Each city has its own carnival characteristics.

À Caldas da RainhaThese personalities are Zé Povinho and Maria Paciencia. These figures were created by Bordalo Pinheirowho lived around 1900, drew caricatures and made them in clay. 

Zè Povinho symbolises the Portuguese worker, the folkloric Zé . Zé Povinho mocks the rich and famous, denounces unjust situations and ridicules politicians. His wife Maria has to be particularly patient/paciencia. (Behind the park there is still the factory with the shop and the house-museum of Bordalo Pinheiro and in front of the town hall there is a life-size "Zé Povinho" which is part of the Bordalo route, it is the walking route with 20 ceramic figures of 1m80)

À Nazaréthe theme is often "só se está nevoa". only if there is fog...

À AlcobaçaIn front of the city's beautiful monastery, a huge tent is set up where the noites na tenda/nights in the tent take place. People dance until the early hours of the morning.

Torres Vedras boasts the most Portuguese carnival in Portugal; half a million people attend and even party for 6 days for almost 100 years (2030). 

There is a lot of mocking of current political events, both national and international. There is also the SAMBA DA MATRAFONA: men dress up as women, in a very satirical way. It is said to have originated from the fact that many were too poor to buy or make nice costumes and so used their wives' old clothes to dress up. Giant cabeçudes/puppets walk in the procession; they can be up to 4 metres high! Several stages are set up in the city centre where musical groups perform. The music is mainly Portuguese, but also Brazilian.

It is via Madeira que le carnaval a été transporté au Brésil et d’où la samba est ensuite revenue ici. Aujourd’hui, il existe également de nombreuse écoles de samba au Portugal, comme au Brésil.

Ovar The carnival festival is called the Vitamina da Alegria/ Vitamin of Joy. Up to 2,000 extras take part in the parades and the atmosphere is very Brazilian.

Inland, carnival is still traditional, as in Podenza/Lamego where wooden masks are still made in the manner of the ancient Romans!

À LouresThe festival is called the peasant carnival.

SesimbraThere is also a clown competition: who is the best looking clown? The funniest?

Everywhere else, the best dressed person and/or group is chosen and decorated.

The most Brazilian is in Faro.

Everywhere there is eating, drinking and joking:

No carnaval ninguem leva mal....

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