The carnival season in Madeira is lived in an endless party atmosphere. During both official and more spontaneous events, deeply rooted in the traditions of Madeira, joy and good mood prevails in the streets, entertainment establishments and private homes. Therefore, Madeira Carnival offers you a variety of activities to choose from, giving you the option to be a mere spectator or an active participant.
Carnival festivities begin with the “Festa dos Compadres” Compadres Feast, which takes place in Santana. This traditional feast pertains to the rites of passage from winter to spring and of 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 is devoted to the public judgement of both of the “compadre” (a male figure) and the “comadre” (a female figure), during which social criticism is made about events and actions of individuals and institutions that occurred in the community during the year. In the end, both the “compadre” and the “comadre” are burned as punishment. In this way, the community is regenerated and relieved from social tensions, being then prepared for a new cycle, which begins with spring.
As of the Wednesday before Carnival, Funchal city centre, especially in the central walkway of Avenida Arriaga, is captivated by the magic of Carnival, becoming the centre of numerous street entertainment events, including carnival music, shows, and countless performances, that contribute to rousing the spirit of revelry in tourists and locals.
Traditional manifestations of Madeira Carnival include the so-called “robberies”, which occur during the period preceding Carnival. These were carried out by groups of disguised people who entered into the houses of friends and relatives in order to “rob” their season delicacies: the traditional “sonhos” and “malassadas”. These incursions always ended with a private indoor party. This type of gathering still takes place, although in a smaller scale, having been replaced by the arranged “Robberies”. These are arranged in advance and nowadays it is the “robbers” who take the delicacies to the hosts.
Nightlife hangout spots also offer various theme nights during the period preceding Carnival, such as the “Hippies Night” and the “Transvestites Night”, inviting their clients to enjoy themselves disguised with a thematic mask.
During this time of the year, parents and children engage in making costumes that they will, then, take to school. In the morning of the Friday before Carnival, about a thousand of young revellers from various schools and kindergartens in Funchal, all in costume, parade through the city centre (Avenida Arriaga), in a carnivalesque animated atmosphere.
On the afternoon of the Friday before Carnival, the city centre is again the stage of another highly original and creative initiative. With a contagious energy, hundreds of carnival revellers from the Funchal Community Development Association parade along Avenida Arriaga to the Municipal Garden, where an entertainment show takes place.
PARADE OF FLOATS
The music sets the beginning of the parade: the colourful joy and the rhythm of the participating groups motivates everyone. The streets of the serene city centre are filled with an endless revelry that you will never forget. On Saturday night, thousands of tourists and residents come to Funchal city centre to watch the parade of floats, the main attraction of Madeira Carnival festivities. Over a thousand revellers participate dressed in striking costumes, dispersed over ten impeccably decorated allegorical floats. They parade to the sound of selected songs that were choreographed and rehearsed throughout the year, overflowing joy to the public.
The “Trapalhão Parade” (Slapstick Parade), held on Shrove Tuesday, embodies the ancient parade held in a spontaneous way along Rua da Carreira. The participation is open to all, Portuguese and foreigners, and it can be individual or in group. The participants’ creativity has no limits, ranging from social and political satire, traditional paintings, to the simple make up disguise. Whether you watch or participate in this parade, you will undoubtedly be able to share moments of good humour and camaraderie with the public.