While more than 90% of Portuguese are Roman Catholic, the majority of young people are non-practicing now, having only grown up with it as a major part of their lives. This seems to be a worldwide trend, but that’s a different subject that I don’t intend to address in this blog. The point of today’s entry is that Carnaval (spelled with an “a” in Portuguese) is still a national holiday. So having a day off of work, we decided to venture to the biggest of the Portuguese Carnaval parades, which is a town called Ovar that is not too far from here.
Now we won’t kid ourselves, Ovar is a far cry from Rio de Janeiro. For one, the weather in Portugal in February is a little cooler than in Brazil. This contributes to a few more clothes on the participants and a bit less enthusiasm among the crowd. But with Burlington, Vermont as my reference point, having never ventured to the debauchery that is New Orleans on Mardi Gras, I came away quite impressed. This was a 3-hour parade in weather in the 50’s that was very amusing.
While the ladies may not have all been world-class samba dancers, they were a whole lot better than I’ll ever be. Some of the outfits were outrageous, and the theme of men dressing up as women (always a good time for everyone) was a popular one. One of our favorites was a group of men dressed as soldiers goose-stepping down the street until their music switched over to YMCA, when they all opened their coats and flashed us in their Superman style red briefs and started dancing like crazy. They even had a keg with a bartender on the back of their float, pretty amusing. There were a total of 25 “bands” that paraded down the street, dancing the entire way, blaring music so loud that your body vibrated on the sidelines. It made me wonder how in Rio, where the parade is longer and the dancing more energetic and the temperature hotter, they manage to stay moving and hydrated. My guess is that there’s a lot of sleeping going on there on Ash Wednesday. For more pictures of the parade, click here.