“I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes,” iconic Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico Buarque famously wrote, during the toughest times of the country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s. The extravagant annual celebrations were a metaphor for the hope that Brazil would one day return to democracy. And now, after two years under a Covid-19 pandemic and two missed celebrations, Chico Buarque’s song has become appropriate once more.
Traditional Brazilian Carnival doesn’t just last for five days. With deep cultural roots and economic importance, bands spend months preparing to take part in samba school competitions or hold their own block parties. In a normal year, the weeks before and after Carnival proper are also filled with celebrations, and the schedule of rehearsals and warmups typically extends for months before the actual holiday. Not being able to properly celebrate for two years has been a psychological struggle for many Brazilians.
The celebration hiatus has an added ingredient thanks to the Jair Bolsonaro administration in Brasília. The government has pushed back against Carnival reveling every year, often disparaging moments of party excesses as hedonistic and against Mr. Bolsonaro’s conservative Christian values. But now, after the 2022 celebration was pushed back due to the Omicron variant, citizens in several major Brazilian cities are ready to hit the streets this weekend. Carnival, it seems, is back.
Vaccines, masks, and resilience. That’s what millions of Brazilians have been left with over the last two years, waiting patiently for a return to normality. With vaccine rates high, and facemasks swapped out for flamboyant Carnival decorations, Brazil is ready to party with itself once more.
The road back to “normality” will be long, but for Brazil, there is nothing more normal than an extravagant Carnival party.