After a very interesting few days in Sao Paulo I was in need of a very stiff drink or two. Rio’s Carnival did not disappoint. This five day festival of music, dancing, parties and what appeared to be free love was just what the doctor ordered.
Carnival, believe it or not, is originally a Catholic tradition to signify the beginning of Lent. ‘Carne’ from meat and ‘vale’ from farewell. Farewell to meat as the abstinence of Lent is upon us. Today of course the Mother Mary and Jesus Christ was not the immediate thought that sprung to mind as I samba’d my way through the crowds of people in fancy dress (or fantasy as they call it), from batman to pirates, fairies and okay, so I met one Jesus.
The bloco parties are the places to be – informal samba parades through the streets. There is a list of maybe 50 to 60 parades every day of carnival in different neighbourhoods and are not to be missed. At the Boitata bloco party the ebb and flow of bodies in the crowd seemed to be in unison with the band marching behind us. The access to ice cold beer is second to none, given that on every corner and in fact through the parades, entrepreneurial vendors are selling beer and alcoholic icy poles from their eskies and the crowds sells them out.
The Brazilians are VERY friendly and I met some lovely people through my host Monica and on the streets where I did have to duck out of a random kiss or two. As my Uber driver explained via Google translate, Carnival is for kissing. Well I can see that from the plethora of loved up couples and strangers for that matter. There was mouth to mouth on the streets and dreamy eyes were constantly being thrown in my direction, and that of the other cutsie batgirls that surrounded me. This is ironically what my grade 8 religion teacher would say is a party for heathens. That’s certainly the viewpoint I received from the odd service I managed to attend in my attempt to drag myself away from the delightful sin of Cerveza and Samba and get back on track. The Unlikely Pilgrim, oh yes religion that’s right…
So, to balance out my Ying and Yang approach to my time in Rio was Church Day, Party Day or Angel in the morning, Devil by night. Slightly hungover I ventured to the Monastery of Sao Bento high on the hill in the docks area. I’m so glad that I did not miss this. The monks here celebrate with the Gregorian chant every Sunday at mass time; it felt like I was catapulted back in time. I was surrounded by the incredible splendour of gold leaf shrines to Catholic Saints, spectacular decorative architecture flaunting the wealth of the empire at the time.
Yet amongst all this splendour there was a serious tone and devout tradition in the ritual of the service, complete with incense burning in the thurible. These 16 men in their dark robes and stern faces together provide a baritone melody saying Lord knows what that echoed through this incredible building and into my soul. Time for another bloco! 😉
I could spend months exploring the churches, cathedrals and immerse myself in the Saint’s Day rituals that are a-plenty here. Perhaps Carnival was not the right time to come? Beer and live music is my weakness in life (albeit I managed the Christ Redeemer – an incredible monument – Checkout my YouTube clip on it – link below); though I did venture to into the Favela’s to discover the grip of Catholicism and the Evangelical movement on those communities . If I’m honest, the backbeat of the samba parade and bloco parties won this round.
SO, through the haze of beer goggles, and bronzed Brazilian babes, my Summary is this: Brazilians love (in no particular order) the Lord, beer and women.
Yours in Faith,
The Unlikely Pilgrim