Bizarre Carnival Celebrations You Haven’t Heard Of

It’s that time of year again, when thousands of dancers prepare to don feathers, beads, and sequins and parade down the streets to mark Carnival. And while big Carnival (or Mardi Gras, as it’s also known) celebrations such as the one in Rio de Janiero get plenty of press, there are lots of other festivals that are just as colorful and creative … and perhaps a little weird.

Wanna see men dressed up as frightening goats, watch devils prance through the streets, or have hundreds of mysteriously masked men throw fruit at you? Read on to learn about some of the world’s most interesting and bizarre Carnival celebrations – where you won’t find a sequined bikini to speak of.

The Carnival of Binche, Belgium

The Carnival of Binche, which takes place in a small town in Belgium, dates back to the 14th century. The festival is one of the oldest street carnivals in Europe and has been recognized by UNESCO for its cultural significance.

The main figures in Binche’s Carnival are known the Gilles (see photo above). These are a group of up to 1000 men who wear costumes featuring the colors of the Belgium flag, which are covered in mysterious crests, bells and tassels. The outfits are also stuffed with straw giving the men a linebacker-esque appearance. On their feet, the Gilles wear clunky wooden clogs, and on their faces, they sport peculiar wax masks, which boast curled moustaches and bulging green glasses. These masks get switched out later in the day for giant feathery hats made up of more than 350 ostrich feathers.

If you plan to be in the audience for the Carnival of Binche, watch out, because the Gilles carry baskets full of blood oranges that they throw at onlookers as they dance down the streets.

No one is entirely sure about the origins of the Gilles, but it’s believed the concept dates back to pagan times, when the Gilles would dance and stomp their wooden shoes to chase away winter. The masks are supposed to represent the equality of all people … but there’s no word on what’s behind the orange throwing!

Busójárás, Hungary

Busójárás is a Carnival celebration held in Mohacs, Hungary, 124 miles south of the country’s capital. Like most Carnivals, this six-day festival features parades and dancing, but unlike its counterparts, the Busójárás includes folk music and men dressed as shaggy, horned animals. Known as Busos, the mask-and-fur costumes resemble large, devilish goats – locals wear them as they carry a coffin through the streets.

The origins behind the masked revelry is mixed – some say the Busos are scaring away winter (hence the coffin), but others claim they were intended to frighten away the Turks, who occupied Hungary during the 16th century.

Carnival of Oruro, Bolivia

This 2000-year-old festival takes place in a Bolivian mining town and has also been recognized by UNESCO. The festival is a mix of indigenous and Catholic rituals that include pilgrimages, dances and story telling.

Since Oruro was once an important mining town, locals made sure to honor the Virgin of the Mineshaft in their Carnival celebrations, kicking off the festivities with a religious ceremony.

The other main element of this Carnival is the Diablada – or dance of the devils – where hundreds of locals dress as demons and prance in the streets. Together with some costumed angels, they tell the story of good conquering evil, as well as the seven deadly sins.

Other characters you’ll see in this Carnival are dancers dressed as Incas, and performers representing the black slaves who were forced to work in the silver mines by Spanish conquerors.

[Photo Credits: Flickr users PIXELPLUS Photography, olaszmelo, and CassandraW1]

Rio Carnival 2012: Costume shopping and impromptu samba dancing

During Carnival, the streets of the Saara market in Old Downtown Rio de Janeiro are flooded with local cariocas shopping for wacky beer hats, neon-colored wigs, cheap plastic accessories, and the ubiquitous noise horns, which echo periodically (and loudly) in the air. If you’re in the market for last-minute costumes for Carnival’s parties and parades, Saara is undoubtedly the place to be.

Yesterday, on the Friday of Brazilian Carnival, the energy and excitement in Saara was palpable. Lively music blared from boom boxes, beer hawkers catered to long lines of customers, and on nearly every corner, children played in confetti while adults danced the samba. Check out the gallery below for a taste of the action.

%Gallery-147960%


Check out Gadling’s full range of Rio Carnival 2012 coverage here.

Carnival Celebrations to draw 750,000 (insanely crazy) visitors

Carnival Celebrations

The ultimate escape, Rio’s Carnival is open with celebrations expected to draw over 750,000 visitors, both foreign and Brazilian spending over $500 million.

“As the king of the party, I declare the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is officially open,” this year’s king Milton Rodrigues said. “Long live Rio, and long live Carnival!”

It’s a spectacle unlike any other where the normal world is turned upside down, rules go out the window and anything goes. For five days the city will be covered in confetti and music with dancing and music parades the order of the day.

While much of Carnival is about being someone else for a while as men dress like women and poor people dress like kings, some attending the event want to stay just who they are.Celebrities expected to attend include Pamela Anderson, added to the VIP party guest list just last wee along with Cameron Diaz, Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman. They will be looking for space in the coveted VIP boxes that overlook all the action along with Jude Law, Leonardo DiCaprio and more.

Off to a less than smooth start when 15 revelers were electrocuted and killed by a fallen power line, Carnival celebrations and festivities are in full swing now with highlights of this year’s festival to include appearances on parade floats by Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who will pose as Venus de Milo, and local singing legend Roberto Carlos.

Flickr photo by snappybex

Related Stories