Carnival of Madeira

Carnival of Madeira
The archipelago of Madeira is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal due to its beautiful nature and rich cultural heritage. No wonder that Madeira hosts one of Portugal’s most famous and vibrant carnivals. The Carnival of Madeira lasts for a week, main celebrations take place in the city of Funchal.

The Carnival of Madeira is one of the first major festivals of the year on the archipelago, apart from the feast of Epiphany (Dia dos Reis). The Carnival begins on the Wednesday before Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and lasts for seven days. On the first day of the Carnival, Funchal wakes up to the sound of brass bands parading across downtown. Festivities continue with parades, shows and concerts held at the city’s main square, Praça do Município.

The Carnival of Madeira includes two major parades. The first one takes place on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. The allegoric parade features lavishly decorated papier-mâché floats, thousands of samba dancers in colorful costumes, marching bands, and costumed characters. It is the more sophisticated of the two parades and requires a great deal of commitment from everyone involved.

The second parade is held on Shrove Tuesday, it is called Trapalhão. The Trapalhão parade is the older of the two parades. Unlike the allegoric parade, it is free for everyone to participate. Thousands of people dressed up in all kinds of costumes flood the streets of Funchal, having the time of their lives. Despite being very informal, the parade has a defined route and schedule. It ends at the Municipal Square and is followed by live music and costume competitions.

On Fat Tuesday, everyone on Madeira treats themselves to a traditional Portuguese confection named masalada. Masaladas are balls of yeast dough that are deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar. They are similar to doughnuts, but traditional masaladas don’t have holes and don’t contain any fillings. The reason for making masaladas was to use the remainder of lard and sugar before the Lenten period. Nowadays very few people fast during Lent, but masaladas are still sold on Fat Tuesday.

Carnival of Madeira

Photo: Nuno Degroote




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