Helsinki Samba Carnaval

Helsinki Samba Carnaval
Every year, the capital of Finland transforms into a miniature version of Rio de Janeiro. You may ask, how is this even possible? The answer is simple: the city hosts the annual Helsinki Samba Carnaval that was heavily inspired by Brazilian carnival traditions.

Caribbean-style carnivals are common, well, in the Caribbean, but they are a rare occurrence in Europe, where Carnival culture is deeply rooted in traditional pre-Lenten festivities. Finland is a rare exception, which is especially amazing considering that the country has no Caribbean immigrant community.

The Helsinki Samba Carnaval was founded in 1991 by the Finnish Samba School Association (Suomen Sambakoulujen Liitto, SSKL). Its main goal is to bring Finnish samba schools together and to promote samba in Finland. The carnival is the Association’s flagship event, but SSKL also organizes workshops and other activities to promote samba as a form of art and pastime.

The first carnival was held in Turku, but in 2013 the event moded to Helsinki where it has been held ever since. It takes place on a weekend in early to middle June, usually the one closest to Helsinki Day celebrated on June 12. Unlike Brazilian Carnival, it cannot be held close to Ash Wednesday because of Finland’s cold climate. So the residents of Helsinki actually have two carnival celebrations: a traditional winter carnival before Lent and the Samba Carnival in summer.

As we’ve already mentioned above, the Helsinki Samba Carnaval was heavily influenced by the Carnival of Brazil. So it’s not surprising that the main event is a vibrant procession featuring dancers in bright costumes representing various samba schools from all over Finland, musicians, and lavishly decorated platforms. The parade features seven samba schools that are members of SSKL: Império do Papagaio (Helsinki), Samba Carioca (Turku), Samba el Gambo (Kokkola), Força Natural and Samba Maracanã (Lahti), Samba Tropical (Seinäjoki), and União da Roseira (Tampere).

Along with the procession, the program of the carnival includes an opening party with a costume contest, bands and dancing, a competition between samba schools, and Baile do Carnaval, an official closing party with breathtaking dance performances, dance-offs, DJs, and lots of positive energy.

Helsinki Samba Carnaval

Photo: simon pennelin




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