Madeira Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) officially starts Friday before Lent and only ends the following Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday), infecting the whole island with an intense joy.
Madeira Carnival Festival is one of the most cheerful regional festivities here on the island. On Friday, the city wakes up to the sound of the philharmonic orchestras and carnival marches that provide a good mood throughout down-town and at night the party continues with shows in Praça do Município. And it goes for five consecutive days.
Madeira Great Allegorical Parade
On Saturday it is time for the great allegorical parade. Over a thousand revellers participate dressed in eye-catching costumes in addition to a dozen exquisitely decorated floats.
The parade is opened with music: the colourful joy and the rhythm of the costumed troupes are contagious. They parade enthusiastically to the sound of selected songs that were choreographed and rehearsed throughout the year, overflowing the public with their joy.
Once this route has passed through the city, everyone gathers on the Praça do Município which is then transformed into a cheerful ball with music and fantasy.
“Trapalhão” Parade (slapstick parade)
Shrove Tuesday is a day when Funchal explodes with local joy. In the afternoon cheeky revelers go to the streets and mingle among the crowd. The streets are contaminated with a caricatured atmosphere during the "clumsy parade" (cortejo trapalhão) During these days, the streets of Funchal are decorated with bright decorations and the sound of carnival music everywhere.
Other initiatives that are included on the festivities ...
The Carnival celebrations begin with “Festa dos Compadres” (Compadres Feast), which takes place in Santana. The nature of this traditional festivity is part of passage from winter to spring ritual and the renewal of the local community.
The action unfolds in a clear antagonism between male and female local residents, well represented through the satirical male and female dolls made by the participants. The feast focuses on the judgement of the "compadre" and the judgement of the "comadre", during which social criticism is done towards the events and activities of individuals and community institutions that took place over the year.
In the end, both the “compadre" and the "comadre" are burned as punishment. This way, the community feels renewed and social tensions are relieved, prepared to begin a new cycle in spring.
Street Entertainment in Funchal
On Wednesday, before Shrove Tuesday, down-town Funchal, in particular the central walkway at Avenida Arriaga, is captivated by the magic of Carnival, which becomes the center of numerous street entertainment events, including carnival music, performances and countless events that contribute to rousing the spirit of revelry in tourists and locals.
This is a tradition among Madeira natives, the so-called "robberies", which occur during the period preceding Carnival. These were carried out by disguised groups, who entered into the houses of friends and acquaintances in order to "rob" their season delicacies: the traditional "sonhos" and "malassadas". These incursions always ended with a private indoor party.
Although this type of gathering still happens, is losing some strength and is being replaced by “arranged robberies”. These are scheduled in advance and now it is the robbers who take the delicacies to the party.
Carnival Theme Parties
Night-life hangout spots also offers various themed nights, during the period preceding Carnival, such as "Hippies Night" and "Travesties Night", inviting their clients to enjoy themselves disguising with a theme mask.
During this period, children and their parents engage in making masks to take to school. On Friday morning, prior to Carnival, about a thousand young revellers from various schools and kindergartens of Funchal, all in disguise, parade through the city center (Avenida Arriaga), in an atmosphere of Carnival liveliness.
On Friday afternoon, previous to Carnival, the city center is once again the stage of another highly original and creative entertainment initiative: with contagious energy, hundreds of revellers from “Associação de Desenvolvimento Comunitário do Funchal” parade along Avenida Arriaga towards the Municipal Garden, where a show takes place.
If you are here, then enjoy the contagious joy!