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The Best Carnival Celebrations Around the World

by Stacy D

Carnivals are exuberant celebrations of culture, tradition, and revelry that captivate millions of people around the globe each year. From colourful parades and elaborate costumes to pulsating music and infectious dance rhythms, these festivities offer a glimpse into the vibrant spirit and diversity of cultures worldwide. Here, we unveil some of the biggest and best carnival celebrations that ignite passion and excitement in cities across the globe.

Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Brazil

Undoubtedly the world’s most iconic carnival, Rio de Janeiro’s festivities are a dazzling spectacle of samba rhythms, elaborate floats, and lavish costumes. Held annually before Lent, the Rio Carnival attracts millions of visitors who flock to the city to witness the sizzling samba parades at the Sambadrome, as well as the street parties known as “blocos,” where revellers dance the night away in a sea of feathers and sequins. If you’re fortunate to experience carnival, consider yourself lucky!

Notting Hill Carnival, London, UK

Bringing a taste of the Caribbean to the streets of London, the Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s largest street festival and a vibrant celebration of Caribbean culture and heritage. Held over the August Bank Holiday weekend, the two-day event features colourful parades, steel drum bands, and mouthwatering Caribbean cuisine, attracting over a million visitors each year to the streets of Notting Hill. From floats driving by for hours while blasting music from their speakers to small businesses serving up delicious West Indian food to extravagant costumes, this is not to be missed.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

Renowned for its pulsating soca music and extravagant costumes, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is a two-day celebration of music, dance, and masquerade that takes over the streets of Port of Spain. What to expect? From the vibrant “J’ouvert” street parties to the elaborate masquerade bands parading through the city, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and flavours.

Venice Carnival, Italy

Steeped in history and romance, the Venice Carnival Italy is a mesmerising spectacle of masked balls, grand parades, and elegant costumes that harken back to the city’s illustrious past. Held annually in the weeks leading up to Lent, the carnival transforms Venice into a magical wonderland, where revellers don ornate masks and elaborate costumes to partake in the festivities.

Cologne Carnival, Germany

Known as the “fifth season” in Cologne, the Cologne Carnival is a lively celebration of Rhineland culture and tradition that takes place in the weeks leading up to Lent. From colourful parades and street parties to traditional “carnival sessions” and costume balls, the carnival is a joyous affair that brings together locals and visitors alike in a spirit of merriment and revelry.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA

Steeped in Cajun and Creole traditions, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a raucous celebration of music, food, and culture that culminates on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. From the iconic parades of flamboyant floats and marching bands to the lively street parties and masquerade balls, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a feast for the senses that attracts attendees from around the world.

Salvador Carnival, Brazil

Dubbed the “largest street party in the world,” the Salvador Carnival in Brazil is an electrifying celebration of Afro-Brazilian culture and music that takes place in the streets of Salvador. With non-stop music, dancing, and festivities that last for six days and nights, the Salvador Carnival is a high-energy extravaganza that showcases the vibrant spirit and diversity of Brazilian culture.

Detty December, Nigeria

“Detty December” is all about the festive and celebratory atmosphere that pervades the country during December. All of Nigeria, but specifically Lagos,  comes alive with a flurry of activities, as people from all walks of life gather to celebrate the holiday season.  A plethora of music concerts, festivals, and street parties take place throughout the month, with Nigerian artists, as well as international acts, often headlining these events. As the carnival has gotten more attention from Western countries in recent years, more and more people, including non-Nigerian celebrities, fly out to feel the buzz.

Crop Over Festival, Barbados

The Crop Over Festival in Barbados is one big party! A celebration of all things Bajan, the festival was first held in 1780 when Barbados was the biggest sugar producer in the world. The festival marked the end of the mammoth sugar cane harvest and was celebrated with colourful parades and events taking place around the Caribbean island. Expect to find colourful costumes, calypso bands and an energetic ambience. 

Oruro Carnival, Bolivia 

The Oruro Carnival, an indigenous tradition turned festival, is held every year on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Taking place in Oruro, between the capital city of La Paz and Altiplano, it is a vibrant event with religious symbolism in the guise of Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Uncle Supay (God of the underworld). The two spirits guide the festival culminating in a big parade illustrating good triumphing over evil.

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