Best Carnival Celebrations Around The World
By Leah Freeman-Haskin
Carnival is the ultimate street party. Celebrated around the world with electrifying performances, dizzying costumes, and music showcasing the energy and culture of the local people, Carnival awakens a pure celebration of life in anyone who attends.
With some traditions dating back 2,000 years, Carnival has a deep history embedded in the culture of its country. Some festivities kick off this month, giving you enough time to book your flights and make your mark on Carnival 2019.
Nice, France / February 16 – March 2
Nice Carnival is the largest party in France. Dating back to the middle ages, the two-week celebration is an electrifying expression of French pride and culture. Every year the capital of the French Riviera explodes with color, music, and three main events: Carnival Parade, Carnival Parade of Lights, and Flower Parades where you can expect to see over 80,000 blooms shower the streets. The theme for 2019 is King of Cinema, marking the 100th anniversary of the Victorine Studios, the Mecca of the film industry on the Côte d’Azur.
Oruro, Bolivia / February 23 – March 4
Oruro Carnival is a pulsating and elaborate display of dancing, masks, authentic food, and parades that overtake the small mining town of Oruro. Over 30,000 costumed dancers and singers celebrate the 2,000-year long tradition that now reflects both ancient Aymara traditions and Christian beliefs. According to bolivianlife.com, the most famous of the folk dances is La Diablada or Dance of the Devils, a ritual representing the victory of good over evil and one that has remained unchanged since colonial times.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands / February 27 – March 10
Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is known to rival Rio’s carnival celebrations. With this year’s theme of The Deep Sea, prepare for an explosion of tropical colors and other-worldly sea creature costumes. The annual celebration begins with the election of the Carnival Queen and continues through the week with parades and festivities around the clock.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / March 1 – 9
The Rio Carnival, known as the biggest party on the planet, attracts almost two million people from around the world. According to riocarnaval.org, The Rio Carnival has a unique style, which is mainly attributed to the influence of African immigrant slaves, brought to Brazil by the Portuguese, who gave life to the first samba rhythms. Celebrations can be found on nearly every corner of the city with vibrant costumes spanning every color in the rainbow. Along with street parties, expect to find Carnival Balls and the main attraction, the Samba Parade, providing an authentic taste of the best of Brazilian culture.
Panama City, Panama / March 2 – 5
Carnival in Panama is one of Central America’s biggest parties. Though not an official holiday, expect most businesses to shut down and for work to stop for the 4-day celebration as people take to the streets to drink, dance, and party. The streets are flooded with floats, parades, and queens decked out in outfits with electrifying colors and showcasing symbolic costumed performances.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago / March 4 – 5
Trinidad Carnival is held every year on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and features an explosion of up to 3,000 masquerades, grand parades, costumes, and music. Soca and calypso beats ring from every corner of the city creating the biggest dance party of the year.
The celebration kicks off with J’ouvert starting at 4:00 am on Carnival Monday. Expect to get dirty if you decide to join this early morning celebration. J’ouvert involves paint, oil, and tons of colorful powder.
New Orleans, USA / March 5
Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Steeped in tradition, this ancient celebration comes to life each year with the help of krewes that take their unique history and theme to the next level with a spectacular show of costumes, floats, and throws in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day.
Carnival Village, St. Maarten / April 22 – May 6
The Caribbean’s longest, non-stop annual festival, St. Maarten Carnival takes place in Carnival Village and lasts three weeks with colorful parades, spectacular local and international concerts and a plethora of food. The Carnival slogan, “experience life” sets the tone for a dizzying celebration that is certain to make you feel alive and in tune with the pulsating rhythms of the Caribbean.
Kingston, Negril and Montego Bay, Jamaica / April 24 – 29
Jamaican pride and culture take to the streets with a spectacular annual celebration. Also known as Bacchanal, Jamaica Carnival is the fastest growing carnival in the Caribbean and is set to the infectious beats of reggae and calypso bands from Jamaica and Trinidad. Aspiring and professional soca artists take the stage ensuring a feast of sights and sounds that make waves across the Caribbean. Many carnival goers describe it as the “adrenaline” shot of Carnival.
Notting Hill, London / August 24- 25
The Notting Hill Carnival is inspired by the colorful and electrifying street festivals of the Caribbean. This spectacular family event has been around since 1966 showcasing the colorful rhythms and culture of the Caribbean communities in London with 50,000 performers including steel drum bands and live music.