Want to experience something bigger than Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Come to Spain’s Carnaval! In late February, Carnaval is celebrated all over Spain. The biggest celebrations take place in Barcelona, Sitges, Cádiz and the Canary Islands.
The Meaning Behind Carnaval
Carnaval occurs right before the start of Lent. Traditionally, it is a time where people have a free pass to party as hard as they want to before making a religious sacrifice. Carnaval was banned during Franco’s dictatorship, so the Spanish take full advantage of being able to celebrate this event today. During Carnaval, you will see people wearing colorful costumes and masks at the many festivals and parades that take place.
What to Wear at Carnaval
At my first Carnaval in Barcelona, I was surprised to see that a lot of the costumes resembled Halloween costumes. Carnaval in Brazil and Carnaval in Spain are very different celebrations which can be quite confusing, especially because the Brazilian Carnaval has a lot of influence here. People often expect to see those same sequined samba outfits that the dancers wear at Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval. You will see those, but they’re mainly worn by the performers in the parades. Every city in Spain celebrates Carnaval differently, but you will tend to see more formal costumes wherever you go. In Barcelona, there’s a ton of costume shops. Below I’ve listed some of my favorites.
Menkes Barcelona- Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 642, 08007
Party Fiesta- Carrer del Consell de Cent, 343, 08007
Atucom- Carrer de Roger de Llúria, 27, 08009
How Long does the Celebration Last?
It really depends on where you choose to go. In Santa Cruz de Tenerife (the Canary Islands), the celebration lasts for three weeks. Here in Barcelona, it’s a week-long celebration that usually starts on Fat Thursday, (the last Thursday before lent), and ends on Ash Wednesday.
What Can You Expect to See at Carnaval?
You can expect to see huge floats, with dancers in colorful costumes. A number of comedic performances are also held on top of these floats. The people participating in the parades love to interact with their audience so prepare to dance and laugh along with them! The drag influence on Carnaval is huge, so expect to see full drag in the parade! If you are a lover of drag, make sure you head to the Carnaval in Sitges, which is only about 45 minutes from Barcelona.
Note: The most popular celebration in Barcelona takes place in the El Born neighborhood
We hope this blog has convinced you to come celebrate Carnaval with us in the future. It is definitely something you don’t want to miss out on.