Dazzling photos show how Carnival is lighting up the streets of Brazil in 2020

insider@insider.com (Natalie Colarossi)
Queen of Percussion Savia David of Unidos de Vila Maria Samba School performs during the parade at Anhembi Sambadrome of Sao Paulo on February 22, 2020 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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  • This week, hundreds and thousands of people are flooding the streets of Brazil to celebrate Carnival with lavish costumes, floats, dances, and music. 
  • Carnival dates back to the 18th century and signifies the beginning of Lent, or the 40 days leading up to Easter.
  • This year's festivities will run from February 21 to 29. These are the most dazzling images from Brazil's 2020 carnival.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The wildest party of the year kicked off in Brazil this week, and the photos are absolutely stunning. 

Thousands have gathered in Sambadromes to watch dancers perform a mix of African and Brazilian moves, while others have been partying at all hours in the streets, adorning lavish costumes with sparkles and feathers. 

Here are the most dazzling photos from Brazil's 2020 Carnival, and a look into one of the most colorful celebrations of the year. 

Carnival in Brazil dates back to the early 18th century. For Catholics, it signifies the beginning of a 40-day period known as Lent.

Carnival


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At the heart of Carnival lies the Sambadrome, a large stadium where thousands gather to watch performers dance the traditional samba.

samba schools


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Source: Visit Brazil

Samba is a blend of African and Brazilian moves and is rooted in the South American slave trade. The dance originated when slaves from Angola and West Africa shared their love of music and dance with Brazilian locals.

samba dancer


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Source: Rio Carnival

In Rio de Janeiro, performers from the top 13 samba schools display their moves during a multi-day parade, and the audience determines a winner.

Samba schools


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Source: Business Insider, Rio Carnival

Samba schools often include large floats in their performances.

samba school floats


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These floats are brightly decorated, massive structures that samba dancers perform.

Samba float


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Floats and costumes are such an important part of the parade that some schools spend millions of dollars on them.

General view of floats


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The Sambadrome parade is an explosive mix of dance and culture that dates back to 1932.

Carnival feathers


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During the parade, women in different samba schools dress in lavish costumes and display themselves as "Carnival princesses."

Carnival princess


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Source: USA Today 

Each samba school also has a "Queen of Percussion," who performs non-stop to the rhythm of parade drummers.

Queen of percussion


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Samba schools have specific color schemes that they use to decorate their costumes and floats.

Colorful samba dancers


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Source: Rio Carnival

The parade processions begin with a "comissão de frente," which is a performance by a small group from each school that reveals the school's costumes and colors.

Samba School carnival celebration


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Some samba costumes include animal themes, while others incorporate references to Brazilian culture and history.

Carnival tigers


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Makeup plays a big role in dressing up for carnival, and members of samba schools often paint their faces together.

close up of carnival makeup


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Some even paint themselves to resemble members of the animal kingdom.

Carnival cheetah woman


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In Rio, some samba schools date back to the 1930s and 40s, while others were more recently established in the 1990s.

Intense samba


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Source: Rio Carnival

These members of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school dressed up in the same costume adorned with glittering lights.

Carnival men in lights


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But Sambadromes aren't the only places for celebration during Carnival. People also party in the streets, often forming wild dance circles around each other.

Carnival stilts


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Street parties, also known as Blocos, attract hundreds of people to dance, drink, and listen to music together.

Sao Paolo block party


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Source: Rio Carnival

During street parties, you can find people performing Frevo dances, a type of movement that involves leaping in the air and twirling colorful umbrellas.

Street dancers carnival


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Source: Huffington Post

Street parties are meant to be a free celebration of carnival, where all people are welcome to gather in celebrations across the country.

Rio street party


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Source: Visit Brazil

Dancers often perform wearing huge headdresses and costumes, but it doesn't stop them from missing a beat.

Street dancing carnival


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Brazil's Carnival has deep roots in African culture. Feathers, for instance, were used in African costumes as a symbol of rebirth, and wearing tribal masks have become an important part of today's celebrations.

carnival costume


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Source: Rio Carnival

In Paraty, a city outside of Rio, people celebrate Carnival with the "Bloco da Lama," or mud festival. Here, party-goers dunk themselves in mud and dance before going to Carnival parades.

carnival mud


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Source: Africa News

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