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Carnival in Brazil - Statistics & Facts

Carnival is, without any doubt, the biggest national festival in Brazil. From the Friday before Ash Wednesday, the entire nation unites in one big street party for five consecutive days, where locals and tourists alike are invited to join the festivities. However, Carnival is not only an important feature of the country’s culture but also a major stimulus for the Brazilian economy. During past Carnival seasons, the tourism sector generated annually more than seven billion Brazilian reals in revenue and approximately 25 thousand temporary jobs. However, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in this event as well.

To discourage agglomerations, the 2021 edition of Carnival was canceled for the most part, with many Brazilian states even lifting the official public holidays normally placed on Monday and Tuesday before Lent. Initially postponed for July, Rio’s Carnival, host of the most important samba parade in the country and the most famous worldwide, was officially canceled in January 2021. For the first time in over a century, the famous Brazilian city will not celebrate its most cherished festivity.

The ‘marvelous’ samba parade

Since the mid-1980s, the samba parade at the Marquês de Sapucaí’s Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro has been a landmark of Brazilian Carnival. Each year, samba schools perform in flamboyant costumes and carriages in front of thousands of people. These celebrations are also broadcasted live by TV networks all over the country, which was one of the main reasons why the parades have became globally known. Still, in 2020, more than half of the attendees at Rio’s Sambadrome were Brazilian tourists visiting the city during the Carnival season. Among the international audience, Argentinians accounted for the largest share, followed by U.S. Americans. Meanwhile, for the Sambódromo do Anhembi in the city of São Paulo —another major venue for Carnival samba parades in Brazil— the 2020 festivities represented a revenue of more than 220 million Brazilian reals.

Carnival street parades

Nonetheless, most of Carnival happens on the streets, animated by blocks, also known as blocos de rua. These are formed by performing artists and bands who parade across the cities while dancing and playing music, usually disguised in costumes representing different characters of a story or a theme. In 2020, Fervo da LUD was the most popular bloco in Rio de Janeiro, gathering a whopping one million people. Though Rio was not the city with the largest number of blocks that year. Two major Carnival destinations in Brazil, Olinda and Recife —located in the country’s Northeast— were each set to have around 1,500 blocos, four times as many as in Rio. That same year, the cities of Salvador and São Paulo ranked as two major Carnival hubs, with a combined total of over 30 million participants.


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