The other night a friend of mine asked how Brazil’s Carnival began and I must admit I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t know the full story (especially since I have attended the past 2 years and write about it). Here is how it all began: The origin of Brazil’s carnival goes back to a Portuguese pre-lent festivity called “entrudo”, a chaotic event where participants threw mud, water, and food at each other in a street event that often led to riots (ie the original Blocos, although if you are craving a mud party you can still enjoy one in Paraty). Rio’s first masquerade carnival ball was in 1840, the carnival street parades followed a decade later with horse drawn floats and military bands (early Sambadrome). Samba, wasn’t part of carnival until 1917 which is pretty crazy to me considering how much the city revolves around samba.Today the carnival is organized by the escolas de samba (samba schools) which first appeared in 1928. Rio’s samba schools spend all year preparing for the parades, constructing huge floats, designing extravagant costumes, and of course, choreographing and practicing complex samba numbers. Each samba school chooses a theme and a story, usually related to some aspect of Brazilian culture. I apologize if you can’t tell from the pictures, but each of the floats is about the size and height of a 3-4 story building!The schools are judged by ten categories, including theme, samba song, percussion band, harmony, flow and spirit, floats and props, costumes, vanguard group, flag carrying couple, and overall impression. This year, Unidas de Tijuca won with a theme centered around folk singer Luiz Gonzaga and the culture of Brazil’s northeast region. Check back for more pics and videos from Carnival!!