Here’s a brief on carnival costumes and how they play a big role in carnival celebrations. We can not talk about costumes without first drawing a few words on carnival itself. Carnival is an annual celebration of live in Brazil and many other countries. Carnival comes from the Italian word “carnevale”, which means “to put away the meat”. It started hundreds of years ago with the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy, with a wild costume competition right before the first day of lent.
As time passed, the carnival costume competition in Italy became very famous, with the competition spreading to all catholic countries in Europe. The celebration was taken to colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean Islands, as France, Spain and Portugal began to take control of the world.
It’s important to remark the great contribution and influence Africans gave to the costume competition and to carnival itself in these countries. To top it off, Brazilians and their spontaneous way of living transformed Carnival in the wildest, biggest and better carnival celebration in the world. Nowadays you can’t think of carnival without thinking of Rio de Janeiro. And you can’t think of Rio de Janeiro without the image of the costume carnival parade. It’s truly something everyone has to put on the list of things to do before leaving this planet.
Brazilian Carnival rituals are strongly related to the music, dance, and use of costumes in African culture. In the African Motherland, natural objects such as feathers, bone, grass, beads, shells, etc. were frequently used to embellish tribal masks and costumes. These earthly objects were symbolizing humans’ ability to rise above difficulty, whether that be pain, heartbreak, illness, etc. They were used as a portal to other worlds, to be reborn again, and to grow spiritually as a people. This force is also illustrated in the highly decorated costumes in Brazilian Carnival. In addition, Carnival make up is a major component in the dancers’ appearance and also traces back to African tradition. Today’s carnivals are filled with dancers wearing nothing but colorful body paint and dangling beads that jingle and twist at every movement.
After the magic of Carnival comes to an end, all the brightly feathered costumes are discarded. The costumes take their final bow and are casually tossed to the side, seemingly valueless. The concept is that after Carnival ends, the new year starts, and that means shedding your skin of the old and looking forward to the new. “Carnival is a farewell to the flesh. The costumes go the way of the flesh,” as said by former Carnival queen Allison Brown. The costumes of yesterday’s Carnival are forgotten and are replaced with the excitement of next years Carnival.