This Carnival was different

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Ostatnia aktualizacja: 2020-04-22. Autor: Milena

This Carnival was different. It was the first real Carnival in my life.

I’ve been living in Terceira since January 2017, so this Carnival was the fourth during my life on the island. I still remember the first one. Everyone was telling: “You have to go to the Carnival”, and I was stiffening when I heard the phrase “you have to”. I didn’t feel like having fun. I was missing my family as hell and I felt more like sitting down and crying than celebrating.

But I eventually put on a make-up as for Halloween and I went there. I walked among dressed up, smiling people, I took some photos. I went also to see balinhos, although my Portuguese was rather measly at that time, so I couldn’t understand a word from the shows. I tried filhoses do forno and filhoses fritas. And I decided that I liked bailinhos and filhoses, but costume parties were not for me.


Big Carnival in small Terceira

Read what I wrote about the Carnival in Terceira in 2019. These two articles complete each other and they’ll give you quite some information about the Carnival on this small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean 🙂 Click HERE to read the article.



And this year I thought: the Carnival = party

And after all, I like parties. I like meeting friends, I like having good fun. A friend proposed to meet in a group of friends and go to the party to Rua de Sāo Joāo. (A party which is apparently the last years’ invention, but it found its sympathizers very quickly). So we met, dressed up and went to the party. And it turned out that it was possible to go and to have fun!

Ok, a small explanation – for me a party on a street is interesting for the first two hours. Later it gets boring, because neither you can dance (the music leaves a lot to be desired, maybe that’s why nobody dances here) nor talk (because it’s too loud). But the first two hours are worth experiencing them.

The Carnival – what does it mean?

Ok, a party is there, but generally – what does this Carnival mean?

Lately I was looking for information about the Carnival to tell you about it on the Facebook and Instagram. And of course here, on the blog. I got to know that the word “carnival” comes from the Italian word “carnevale”. And that word has its Latin origin – of course! When you read what it means, your life will never be the same again. Are you ready? “Carnival” from Latin means “remove meat” or “farewell to meat”. Can you imagine? Steaks straight from the “Madagascar” instead of the Venice masks. Such a preparation for the Lent. I’ll leave you with that image. When you bounce back, you can continue reading.

karnawał, Carnival, Carnaval

The Carnival in Terceira

Are you still here, are you breathing? Good, now there will be something calmer. We’ll also get into the history, but a bit more recent. The end of the 19th century / the beginning of the 20th century. In the whole Europe dance shows were very popular. Groups known today as bailinhos evolved out of those dance shows. There are many theories about the origin of bailinhos. One of them tells that these were the emigrants coming back from Brasil that introduced a plot to the dance shows. Was it really like that? Probably we’ll never know it. But it’s nice to think that the local traditions have something in common with the amous Carnival in Rio.

Bailinhos – a unique tradition from Terceira

We know though that bailinhos are a tradition that exists only in Terceira. Bailinhos are stage groups that prepare their shows especially for the Carnival. Most of the groups consists of 20-24 people, usually amateurs. Each of the groups has to prepare its own script and arrangement to a typical music (rarely – writes their own music). Each team is also responsible for their costumes, make-up, scenography, stage props, logistics. Not even mentioning the choreography and direction. They start rehearsals a few weeks earlier. All that to play during the Carnival four days in a row in front of thousands of people.

– Pedro, you all on this island wouldn’t work, you would only prepare some festivals all the time!
– And do you have any idea how much work it takes to prepare a festival??

What do bailinhos talk about?

The bailinhos performances are extremely popular. Around 60 groups visit every year around 40 culture centers located on the island and play in front of thousands of people.

What do they talk about? About everything that during that time moves the local and international community. There may appear such issues as the government, health services, racial prejudices, low-cost airlines. There are also such topics as homosexuality, gender equality, betrayal, alcohol, limited transportation within the archipelago, rivalry between the islands, politics, inefficiency of courts, disputes between neighbours, climate changes. And many, many more.

karnawał, Carnival, Carnaval, bailinhos

To understand bailinhos is to understand the island

To understand well the bailinhos performances, you have to first of all speak Portuguese well and second of all – understand the local community. Jokes are simple but they hit into what the audience is interested in. From these performances you can read perfectly what the island’s community lives on. It’s a mirror of reality, it’s worth looking into it.

In the article „Big Carnival in small Terceira” I wrote about how much I was surprised at the beginning by the lack of any plan and „schedule” of performances. I am not surprised anymore. Now I see that this is a part of culture. Just like following one bailinhos group like your favourite rock band. Or like eating bifana, broad beans and filhoses during breaks.

Bailinhos performances are the largest „gathering” of popular theater in Portuguese language in the whole world. And all that on a small island.

karnawał, Carnival, Carnaval, bailinhos

People wait for the Carnival for the whole year

During the carnival, the habitants are eagerly celebrating Dia de Amigos, Amigas, Compadres and Comadres. Recently also bailinhos for the elderly, which takes place before the main Carnival weekend, is also popular. But these are the last 4 days that are the most important. People wait for them for the whole year.

Celebration of the Carnival begins on the last Saturday before Ash Wednesday and ends on Tuesday, on the Shrovetide. Tuesday is a day off from work. Can you imagine? You get a day off just to sleep off the party. It’s quite an idea.

There used to be Carnival parties in enclosed spaces. Now on Saturday and Monday there is an outdoor party at Rua de Sāo Joāo in Angra. Everyone comes in fancy costumes and have fun by the sound of music (as I said, a lot to be desired, but few people seem to mind). You can meet pirates, sailors, fairy-tale characters, heroes, princesses, animals, priests, knights, soldiers, policemen, peacocks, ballerinas, monsters, skeletons… I could go on like that much more time, but I think it is already clear. The only limit is your imagination.

karnawał, Carnival, Carnaval

And during these four days (long evenings, and on Saturday and Monday also night, until the dawn) people gather in culture centers and watch bailinhos. They are there not only to see the performances but also to meet friends, talk, laugh, eat something tasty.

Carnival heralds the end of winter

The Carnival used to be celebrated as a farewell to the fun period and the welcome of Lent. It doesn’t have such religious significance today. Today it is rather a harbinger of spring.

When you ask the inhabitants of Terceira which month they dislike most, most will answer: February. Why? Because in February everyone is already tired of winter. In the Azores, it can be cold and rainy in winter. A lot of people sit at home and catch up in movies and TV series. Social life is dying.

And the inhabitants of Terceira are very focused on society and life in a group. Winter doesn’t help in that. Carnival is therefore a great opportunity to meet again and enjoy life. Take off the weight of the winter months and kindle hope for spring.

Carnival is in this situation an opportunity to feel alive again. To finally put on something different than a rain jacket and leave the house. And have fun. Especially since the local community loves to have fun.

karnawał, Carnival, Carnaval, bailinhos

The same Carnival, a different perspective

It is being said that life is 20% of what happens to us and 80% of our attitude to it. The Carnival in Terceira has been the same or very similar for years. But for me for the first time it was different. For the first time I experienced it differently and looked at it in a different way. I saw in it a value that I hadn’t noticed before. I saw that fun is necessary. I saw that the Carnival… helps in life.

And yes, after four days of celebration my body was exhausted and I had to relax. Eat vegetables, get some sleep, get some rest from people. But detachment from everyday life has its advantages, even if it is everyday life that we like.

What advantages?

Well, for example, that we return with a fresh head. And a fresh desire to act. When we move away from our everyday live for a moment, we are able to look at it from a different perspective. We rest from it, thanks to which we later have more energy to face new (or old) challenges. Reality does not change, but our level of willingness to act in this reality changes. Usually positively.

And sometimes it’s just about fun

I like to look for the hidden agenda and see the meaning of what is happening. I have a feeling that everything is connected and each effect has its cause. But I am also aware that not everyone has to want to look at the world this way. Therefore, regardless of whether you consciously want to take a break from everyday life, or just want to observe an interesting social phenomenon, or maybe you just want to just have fun – come to the carnival on Terceira. Culture centers and Rua de Sāo Joāo burst at the seams during the Carnival, but there is always room for one more good soul. See you in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!

karnawał, Carnival, Carnaval
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