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Everything you need to know about Rio, the world’s biggest Carnival

The world’s most famous Carnival saw millions of people gathered in Rio’s Sambadrome in Brazil this week to watch and join in the festivities. The theme of the party this year was racial pride and the fight against racism in Brazil – and even the damp weather wasn’t enough to rain on the parade! Rio authorities said up to five million people, including around one million tourists, would enjoy the action over the five days of the Carnival, and spend up to $US500 million as part of the festivities.

What’s the history of the Rio Carnival?

Every February, more than two million people take to Rio’s streets to be part of the Rio Carnival – the biggest such event in the world. The first carnival was held in 1723. Originally it was a Roman Catholic celebration, of merry-making and eating red meat, before the somber 40 days of lent began in the run-up to Easter Week. Recent years have seen the popularity of street groups or “blocos” at Rio’s festivities, and now there are around 400. Some draw just a few hundred people but others attract millions.

Who gets in involved in the Carnival parades?

Since 1928, the Carnival’s parades have been formed by ‘samba schools’, whose members are drawn from groups of Rio’s neighbourhoods who want to take part in the parade. But the Carnival isn’t just the parade: parties, shows, beauty contests and celebrations are also held across Rio for the full week.

What was new at the 2015 Carnival?

This year there was a new trend, with several groups parading on stilts for the first time! Organisations such as The Company of Mysteries and Novelties combined Carnival with daring choreographies on long legs, opening the parade for the traditional Escravos da Maua salsa group.

What was the theme this year all about?

Racial integration and the fight against racism in Brazil were the themes of the Carnival this year, as seen in samba group presentations and street parties during the parade. Some samba groups put together dance routines to honour Afro-Brazilian heritage, and one built a giant Nelson Mandela float. The float aimed to remind people of Mandela’s fight for equality, while calling for more racial integration in Brazil, a country that is home to more black people than any nation aside from Nigeria. The famed samba school, Imperatriz Leopoldinense, also included a performance dedicated to the issue during their procession through the Sambadrome.

What was the stand out parade at this year’s Carnival?

This year, a parade about what people would do if the end of the world was about to happen, took the most popular spot at this year’s Carnival in that Brazilian metropolis. Spectators in the rain-soaked parade area of Rio’s downtown shouted out “champion” on Sunday night to the 4,000 musicians and dancers of the Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba school. That group’s parade wowed the audience with its elaborate costumes and the creativity of its floats.