Updated on Jan.10, 2013
They're called prévias because they precede Carnival. But they're such vibrant and festive events that they feel just like the real thing. If you're in Olinda in the month before Carnival 2013 (Feb.8-13), you can enjoy an array of shows and parades with many of the city's best Carnival groups, most of them in the city's historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are so many events, in fact, that the best way to keep up with them is to check the official Olinda Carnival website (carnaval.olinda.pe.gov.br) or the Olinda Tourism Secretariat's Cultural Agenda daily for updates. Here are some of the season's highlights.
Washing of Bonfim Steps:
Just like Salvador, Olinda has a Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church and a ceremony similar in sycretism to the Washing of Bonfim.
In 2013, Olinda's Washing of the Steps is commemorating its 30th anniversary. This year, however, the washing itself is taking place at Sé at 4 p.m. Olinda's Bonfim Church is facing structural problems and awaiting restoration.
After the washing, a cortejo, or procession, will go down Ladeira da Misericórdia, Rua do Bonfim, Quatro Cantos, Amparo, Joaquim Nabuco, cross Avenida Pan Nordestina, arrive in Jardim Brasil and follow towards Culto Afro Nossa Senhora do Carmo, to the sound of music by 60 members of Afoxé Povo de Ode.
Pitombeira dos Quatro Cantos:
Months before Carnival, Pitombeira dos Quatro Cantos starts its pre-Carnival parades and parties, as a reminder that Carnival is never far from Brazil's daily life. Founded in 1947, this troca, or Carnival group, has kept up with the times and faithfully updated its Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pitombeira4).
Start looking for Rebylleurias in Olinda's official Carnival guide over a month before Carnival. Their parades feature a varied approach to Carnival music, for example with classics from Rio de Janeiro festivities.
Months before Carnival (usually around September), the women in Conxitas get busy with their rehearsals. About a month before Carnival, those gain momentum as they are followed by parades.
Giant Puppet Race:
A Brazil Carnival classic, the giant puppet race takes place two weeks before Carnival. It requires extra stamina and balance from runners, especially the ones who carry puppets in the Heavy category (for puppets weighing 16 kilos and above).
In 2011 and 2012, an extra touch of fun was the participation of runners donning Pernambuco team mascots. The winner of the category in 2012 was Sandro Sérgio da Silva, who dressed as the Parakeet, mascot of Recife-based América Futebol Clube de Pernambuco.
See a 2012 race photo album on Olinda's official Carnival guide.
Virgens de Verdade Abraça Brasil:The cross-dressing group's parade in Olinda pre-Carnival is free, but tickets are available to camarotes, or Carnival suites (see Brahma VIP 2013). Read more about the event in this guide to Virgens de Verdade, which this year will once again parade with the project Abraça Brasil - so the event is being called "Virgens Abraça Brasil".
In Olinda a couple of weeks before Carnival? Look up Patusco's open rehearsals. The group also draws huge crowds to their Carnival parade.
Enquanto Isso na Sala da Justiça:
One of the top events in Olinda's pre-Carnival season is the party thrown by hugely popular bloco Enquanto Isso na Sala da Justiça ("Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice") the weekend before Carnival. It's OK to show up withouth a costume, but you won't want to miss the opportunity to dress up as a traditional super hero, or one created by you.
The bloco, commemorating its 18th anniversary in 2013, also parades in Olinda Carnival.
Noite Para os Tambores Silenciosos:
The Night for the Silent Drums has some of the most solemn moments in Brazil Carnival. This parade honors the religious African heritage imprinted in Pernambuco maracatus; at midnight all the drums go silent as the maracatu groups ask their ancestors for their protection during Carnival. The celebration is held about one week before Carnival (2013 date not yet confirmed as of this update).
Virgens do Bairro Novo:A male cross-dresser's wild fantasy come true, Virgens do Bairro Novo parade every year in Olinda with revelers dressed in the most outrageous, elaborate costumes - a lot of them are trying to win the costume contest held every parade, with prizes such as home theaters and car DVD players.
The bloco is on Facebook (pt-br.facebook.com/blocovirgensdobairronovo). They also have a blog (blocovirgensdobairronovo.wordpress.com).
Infrastructure in Olinda Pre-Carnival:
On Jan.6, 2013, a commission formed by several municipal officials visited Olinda's Historic Center to identify possible flaws in infrastructure and make the town's prévias safer, according to news posted on Olinda's official Carnival guide.
The commission was formed by the secretaries of Culture and Heritage, Urban Control, Public Services, Government, Urban Safety, Municipal Guard and Communications, as well as representatives of CIATUR, the Independent Tourist Support Company.
The group determined measures which will be implemented with the start of prévias in mid-January. The city's strategy for Carnival 2013 includes regular meetings with the Military Police with a view to finding the best safety solutions for the festivities.