The Carnival of Brazil is an annual festival held between the Friday afternoon (51 days before Easter) and Ash Wednesday at noon, which marks the beginning of lent, the forty-day period before Easter. On certain days of Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term “carnival,” from carnelevare, “to remove (literally, “raise”) meat.” Carnival has roots in the pagan estival of Saturnalia which, adapted to Catholicism became a farewell to bad things in a season of religious discipline to practice repentance and prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection.
Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Except for industrial production, retail establishments such as malls, and carnival-related businesses, the country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. Rio de Janeiro’s carnival alone drew 4.9 million people in 2014, with 800,000 being foreigners.