Mardi Gras Vs Carnaval: A Brazilian’s perspective By Isadora Linheira Carlos

When you think about Brazil, what comes to mind? My guess is that you have either heard about soccer or as the rest of the world knows it; football, and of course the hypnotic Samba, the most popular and distinctive music in Brazil. Here in New Orleans, where Mardi Gras is a major celebration it’s not uncommon for people to ask me, “Oh, in Brazil they have a bigger version of Mardi Gras, right”? Correct, but not exactly.

Brazil is known worldwide for its Carnaval. Just like Mardi Gras, Carnaval is held 47 days before Easter, with celebrations that happen everywhere. However, in Brazil the festivities cannot be contained to just one week. There’s a good reason Brazilians are known for being party animals: the celebration goes till the Carnaval parties all over Brazil finally come to halt, usually when everyone is too tired to dance anymore.

As a Brazilian who has lived in New Orleans for over two years, I cannot help but notice the similarities and differences of both celebrations. For starters, I always like to acknowledge how different New Orleans is from any other American city. The people in New Orleans have the same spirit and warmth that you feel in Brazil, especially during the celebration of Mardi Gras. In both places the feeling of union is the same, as if all people share the same goal: To have a good time.

You don’t need to contain your true-self when you go to Mardi Gras or Carnaval. Both experiences invite you to let yourself go, dance in front of everyone, wear costumes, talk to strangers, and experience life in a whole new way. Just like in every city in Brazil, celebrations in New Orleans are full of color, cultural symbols, historical references, and good music.

However, as a Brazilian I’ve noticed some things that are completely different. In Brazil we have two different types of Carnaval celebrations. There is the street Carnaval and the parades, which usually happen in big cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The parades are extremely beautiful, but can get very pricey – you have to pay to see them in person, so most people watch it on TV. Much like “krewes” in New Orleans, each group comes from a different community. However in Brazil, not just anyone can join a group. Each group comes from a different Favela, the most impoverished part of society in Brazil. These communities work hard throughout the entire year to put on Carnaval for the public.

The two groups each belong to a special league. These leagues allow them to perform and raise money for their costumes and floats, and the jobs promoted by Carnaval bring hope to many families for a better future. Many families participate in Carnaval in order to financially support their children. Gratitude for the Carnaval- produced income is repaid by dancing, singing and giving tourists a unique lifetime experience.

To give people a visual of what Brazilian parades look like: Imagine Mardi Gras floats, but a thousand times bigger and prettier. The street Carnaval happens everywhere. It’s all about music, dancing, crazy costumes and believe it or not – kissing! Many people in Brazil will kiss random strangers during the Carnaval, all in the name of having a good time. But don’t get it twisted; it only happens if both sides agree to a quick smooch. In the street Carnaval people take to the streets and party for days, like Bourbon Street – but without the beads and “show your boobs” part.

One thing is for sure: if you are from New Orleans and want to visit Brazil for Carnaval you will feel right at home. Once you leave, you might feel a deep, nostalgic and melancholic need to come back, a state of mind called “Saudade” in Portuguese.

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