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Brazil's Carnival - the biggest Lenten party in the world - kicks off

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Lenten Season is to begin shortly - but before then, the entire nation of Brazil is going to indulge in a five-day carnival. Described as the biggest and most colorful party in the whole world, Brazil has erupted into parades and street parties as the population goes "samba-mad."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Everyone who is everyone is here. There's Korean pop star Psy, whose "Gangnam Style" single and dance moves has made him a global phenomenon, performed to huge crowds in Salvador, Brazil's third-biggest city.

Other Brazilian and foreign celebrities, including U.S. actress Megan Fox, are flying out to liven up the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere. Rio alone is expected to attract 900,000 tourists and generate millions for the local economy this year.

Street parties, balls and parades have traditionally shut down most of Latin America's biggest nation, luring millions of locals and tourists to celebrations across the country.

The different carnivals, which take place in Sao Paulo, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais as well as Rio and Salvador and many other cities showcase their own type of music such as samba, samba-reggae and funk samba. Last night parades began in Sao Paulo's specially built Sambadrome, a space designed for parades.

Brazil's Carnival takes place in the days leading up to Lent, the 40-day period before Easter. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro symbolically handed over the keys of the city to King Momo, the ceremonial figurehead of Brazil's best-known Carnival celebrations.

There is tragedy along the edges of this year's celebrations. The recent fire at the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria, killed 238 people, with 65 people remaining hospitalized.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attended a mass in honor of the victims of the disaster at the cathedral in Brasilia, the capital. Rousseff said that she would not be taking part in this year's events.

In response, dozens of cities, most of them near where the 27 January nightclub disaster occurred, have cancelled or toned down some of their festivities.

There is a lot less revelry going on nationwide. Hundreds of nightclubs and other venues remain closed after municipal authorities across the country moved to crack down on lax enforcement of safety codes.

Gaudencio Torquato, a columnist writing in the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, this week compared Brazil to a "see-saw," a country where emotional "highs and lows relieve each other without interruption."

Carnival festivities have thrown a damper on the ebb and flow of life here as well. Salvador suffered a power cut last week, which was caused by short circuits after revelers threw Carnival tinsel on power lines.

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