History and Traditions

History of Carnival

Carnival in Madeira has always been celebrated with very enthusiastic revelries, ranging from the traditional "mascarados" (masquerades), street revellers who dressed up in old ragged clothes and blackened their faces with soot, to private balls in local clubs where the revellers wore true disguises based on different themes, such as well-known personalities, occupations or objects.
Carnival festivities had their highlight happening in Rua da Carreira, once the main street of Funchal, centre with a spontaneous parade in which participants shared the party spirit and the typical excesses of Carnival. The street's residents and the revellers competed in a true battle, "fighting" with water, eggs, flour, streamers and confetti. The excesses committed during this parade grew so bad that the authorities were forced to introduce restrictions, which, however, did not discourage the locals from keeping up the tradition of celebrating Carnival in a lively way in the city's streets.
With the growth of the hotel industry in the 1970s, the balls that were held in clubs began to be organised by luxury hotels, such as the Reid's Palace and the Savoy.
In the late 1970s, Carnival starts to be officially celebrated and goes into the streets with a new format and organisation, rapidly developing into today's internationally famous tourist attraction, Madeira Carnival Festivities.
The Regional Secretariat of Tourism starts organising both the Parade of Floats and the Slapstick Parade.
The Parade of Floats brings into the streets the organised groups that took part in the private Carnival balls (held in ballrooms and hotels) in order to share their creativity with residents and visitors.
Both parades start having a prearranged itinerary, allowing revellers to have fun and, at the same time, allowing the parade to be better appreciated by the spectators placed along the route. Since then, the event has earned notoriety until it became of the biggest tourist events in Madeira Islands.

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