Carnival is the Latin American version of Marti Gras, which happens the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday usually takes place in the middle of February and marks the 40 days of Lent before Easter. Although it should be a religious festival, it really isn't. Basically, Carnival is a time for people to go crazy and get everything out of their systems before the austere 40 days of Lent begin.
Brazil is famous for its Carnival celebrations with dancers, elaborate costumes and floats that go through the streets. The celebrations in Rio are widely known throughout the world.
One tip to remember is that speaking Spanish will help you greatly. You'll be treated differently than if you speak English all the time, it'll help you assimilate, and you'll be able to communicate easier. If you're looking to learn Spanish, check out Fluenz Spanish, Rosetta Stone, and Synergy Spanish.
For Latin America, Carnival is a month long excuse to get people wet. Usually young boys hid with water balloons and throw them at women who pass by. It's not just the children, but men also get involved. Water's not the only thing used, depending on the district, other things, such as soda, gasoline and even paint can be thrown. It's not uncommon for men to get fire hoses and spray them at buses passing by.
If you're travelling in Latin America during Carnival, there are a couple of precautions that you should take. Wear darker coloured clothing, and under no circumstances should you wear white. Close windows when riding in a bus, car, or taxi. Although it's meant to be harmless fun, it's annoying. Water balloon do hurt, especially when dropped out of windows on your head. And it's no fun getting wet either.
There are other important festivals in Latin America. If you found Carnival interesting, take a look at Mes Morado: The Lord of the Miracles.
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