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01 Feb 2012

ANATOMY OF A BESTSELLER – MARDI GRAS

Celebrate Mardi Gras in the world's Carnival capital Rio de Janeiro. STEVE BARNETT reports.

  • The European tradition of Carnival was introduced to Brazil by the Portuguese in the 1700s. Over time, it took on a new form that incorporated Brazilian and African dance and music, in particular samba, the music of Rio.
  • CARNIVAL OR MARDI GRAS? Also referred to as Mardi Gras, Carnival is the time of celebration before Lent, the 40-day period of prayer, self-denial and confession in the Christian calendar preceding Easter. Ironically, this is also the time many make merry in anticipation of the abstinence during Lent.
  • MUST-SEES: Outrageous, flamboyant costumes are a highlight. Think body paint, feathers, mirrors and headdresses. Costumes worn by samba school students typically boast the school's special colours and style.
  • 80,000 TICKETED SPECTATORS catch the official samba parade at Sambodromo stadium, where tens of thousands of participants from the city’s best samba schools compete for top honours. The most important parade nights are Carnival Sunday and Monday.
  • 500,000 VISITORS A YEAR flock to Rio for Carnival, listed as the biggest party on the globe in the Guinness Book of Records. The nonstop festivities include balls, the most glamorous being the Magic Ball at Copacabana Palace hotel, and soirees at virtually every nightclub and bar in town.
  • Carnival is also celebrated by millions throughout Brazil and in cities including New Orleans in the US, Nice in France and Cologne, Germany.
  • 2012 Carnival happens from February 17 - 21.

PHOTO GETTY IMAGES

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