February is Carnaval.
The actual origins of Carnaval are not known, but it probably has pagan roots. Roman Catholics accepted it during the middle Ages as a pre-Lenten occasion to feast before the season of fasting and penance. In Europe, Carnaval disappeared by the end of the 19th century, but it flourished in the New World. The Portuguese Carnival (entrudo) was a particularly boisterous celebration and by the time the royal court relocated to Rio de Janeiro in the first decade of the 19th century, the Brazilian Carnival had become somewhat riotous. The first masked ball occurred in Rio in 1840 and became an annual event. Various balls started to compete with each other and they employed various outlandish gimmicks in this competition. In 1855 street parades started which grew more elaborate. These parades started with the upper class, but were soon taken over by the less fortunate classes. Black Brazilians first started participating in 1885. They helped in forming the ranchos (presentations accompanied with music) and blocos (neighborhood blocks) that eventually developed into the modern samba schools that now conduct the Carnival parades. (see Joseph A. Page, 1995)
Samba Girls says the New York Carnaval version was a street festival that is hard to describe. The celebration is Brazilian, but the theme is very international. There are kiosks from Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Italy, Portugal, and Africa, among others. They had a Samba parade three years ago, of which you see some pictures here, but they haven't had another one since. She was told that the people in charge of organizing the festival have been changed, and that the parade might return. She hoped so because she felt it gave the festival a Brazilian feel.
Samba Girl said about the New Jersey festival that the theme is international, but the party is all Brazilian. As far as I can tell, the music is usually provided by a local band from the USA playing Samba, Brazilian style. They have one main stage, located at the entrance of the festival. They have Capoeiristas and live musicians, souvenirs, CD's, T-shirts, and clothes, and lots of Brazilian food.
She liked the fact that the N.J. Festival had a lot more space compared to the Manhattan festival. The Ironbound District festival is done on Ferry Street, a block away from the Newark Port Authority train terminal, and is twice as long as the N.Y. Festival. There are also more people. An Americanized feature is the "Carnaval Rides" for the kids. The festival usually starts at 11:00 AM and runs until about 11:00 PM.
Samba Girl says that few people, if any, wear costumes. When she went with her costume people kept asking her if she was a dancer and when was she going to perform.
In June in Newark there is a Portuguese Day Parade and Festival.
In September in Newark there is a Brazilian Independence Day Festival.
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