Carnival season is upon us once again. It is one of those moveable feasts that occur before Lent so depending when Easter falls it can take place any time between February and March.
It is celebrated across the island, but the most spectacular celebrations are to be found in Santa Cruz where it is considered the biggest fiesta in Europe, the most “Brazilian” of all Spanish carnivals and the second most popular and internationally known after the famous Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel to Rio to immerse yourself in the electric Latino atmosphere. For fifteen days, the streets of the city come alive with joie de vivre, freedom and extravagance.
Every year, more people come to experience the Tenerife carnival. Tourists arrive by the coach load; locals pack pavements and squeeze their way through crowds that grow thicker by the second and Santa Cruz is buzzing and gridlocked for days on end.
For several weeks, there is a full programme of activities taking place with competitions between different kinds of groups, bands and dance schools: murgas, rondallas and comparsas, but once the elections have been held for the Carnival Queen and the opening parade is announce Carnival really begins.
Carnival has two main parts – the first takes place when thousands of people converge in the streets and plazas and the nightly street parties begin. Most are wearing crazy costumes in accordance with tradition. To really feel part of the party you need to be dressed up, no matter what, be it princess or pirate, celebrity or clown.
The city is filled with stalls selling everything from candyfloss to chips from churros to chorizos. These kiosks are like magnets that attract anyone with a sense of smell or an eye for great street food. And of course they are guaranteed to do brisk business ensuring the revellers have the stamina to keep pace with the music, fairground and festive atmosphere which can´t be done on Dorada alone. The whole mood of the city is mental and mad.
Carnival reaches a climax, with “el coso” a spectacular parade that will amaze everyone who sees it. It starts in the afternoon and continues until early evening. Thousands of people and dozens of musical groups fill the streets for hours in a breathtaking multi-coloured chain of merrymaking and devil-may-care. Costumes are the biggest part of this carnival extravaganza and you’ll find that everything is allowed, with lots of feathers and sequins and amazing mind-boggling outfits.
This year’s theme is the World of Bollywood so your imagination if you are going to join in can run riot, you have only one obligation: to have fun!
The Burial of the Sardine marks the end of the festivities: the spirit of Carnival, symbolised by the sardine, is carried through the streets on a funeral bier, and is then set on fire and consumed by the flames to the despair of the entourage of mourners, pregnant men and “grief-stricken” widows in floods of tears and general hysteria!
So if you want to see the real Tenerife, enjoy the rhythm, colour, flamboyance and of course, the most brilliant spectacle then come to Santa Cruz when the city gives itself up to Carnival. If there’s one thing that Canarios know how to do that is throw a great party.
The main Carnival dates are between 6th and 17th February. However the highlights are on the following dates in
6th Gala for the Election of the 2013 Carnival Queen
8th Opening Parade
12th Coso – Main Parade (4 pm)
13th Funeral of the Sardine
17th End of Carnival 2013
Puerto de la Cruz
13th Burial of the Sardine
15th High Heels’ Drag Marathon
16th Closing Parade
21st – 25th February (Theme Cinema)
Los Cristianos – 2nd – 11th March – Theme Homage to Brazil.
2nd Carnival Opening Parade
9th Drag Queen Gala
10th Great Carnival Parade
11th Burial of Sardine.
Images courtesy of Tenerife Tourist Board
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