The Truth about Carnaval

The Truth about Carnaval

Offering Alternatives to "Brazil's Most Important Party"

By: Tania Mendes, Compassion Brazil Communications Specialist   |   Posted: April 19, 2005

Compassion-assisted projects in Brazil teach children about their country's world-famous Carnaval, a four-day street party marked by drugs, alcohol, gambling and sexual license. Projeto Maninho (BR-338) provides an alternative celebration for children that incorporates puppets, music, dance and drama.

Carnaval is a bawdy four-day Brazilian celebration culminating on "Fat Tuesday" or Mardi Gras. History suggests the Portuguese imported this round-the-clock festival to Brazil during the 17th or 18th centuries. Although its origins are unclear, many agree this world-famous street party began as a pagan celebration in ancient Rome or Greece.

Carnaval is viewed as an opportunity to indulge one's passions before entrudo (Portuguese for "entrance") into the 40-day Lenten period, which is often marked by self-denial. But through the years, Carnaval became Brazil's calling card as promoters of "Brazil's most important party" seized upon it as an unparalleled opportunity to earn big money.

Meanwhile, many Brazilian Christians see Carnaval as a "flesh party," an excuse for indulging in alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. With Carnaval being ubiquitous in Brazil, it can be difficult to keep these wanton lessons away from children.

That's why all Compassion-assisted projects teach children about the damaging realities of Carnaval. And some offer alternative celebrations to the famous "flesh party." One example is at Projeto Maninho (BR-338), located in Morro do Cavalao, a poor community in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

God's Party: Purim

"Carnaval time is a good opportunity to teach the children in our care about the freedom and joy God gives to those who follow Him," says André Souza, a sponsor correspondence monitor at Projeto Maninho. "So, in place of Carnaval, we celebrate Purim. It's a celebration of the victory of God's people from the plot of Haman, which is found in the Old Testament book of Esther."

Ever since the project began six years ago, staff workers have begun yearly preparations for the Purim party before Christmas. This is the period in which Carnaval commercials begin to flood Brazilian television, urging people to celebrate "Brazil's most important party."

During Carnaval week, project workers and a local pastor teach the 130 youth at the center about Queen Esther and how God used her to overthrow a plot to kill His people, the Israelites. The story is told using figures, puppets, theatre and dance.

During these interactive teaching sessions, each student chooses a character from the Esther account. On the last day of Purim week, the children act out their Bible story characters in a play that is presented to the children's parents and other community members.

"I don't like Carnaval but I like to participate in the Purim party - it's very cool," says 10-year-old Thamyres de Araújoza, a Compassion-assisted youth. "Once I acted the part of one of the girls who was chosen to be the queen. I want to do it again next year because we learn about God's Word - and it's fun!"

Partying for Eternal Returns

Purim-week activities return other benefits besides a good time. "Many children have accepted Jesus into their hearts as a result of our Purim festivities," says Project Director Josani de Barros. And parents seem to enjoy the alternative event, too.

"Many parents think Purim is a very interesting, different kind of celebration that the project teaches their children during Carnaval time. And they approve of it," concludes Andréia.

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