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Saturday, February 9, 2013 - Page updated at 09:30 a.m.

The ebb and flow of Rio's Carnival

By Kristin R. Jackson
Seattle Times NW Traveler editor

For Mardi Gras celebrations, it's hard to beat Brazil, where hundreds of thousands of people party wildly in the streets of Rio de Janeiro and other cities.

Rio's Carnival — the days-long celebration before the somber Christian period of Lent — brings lavish parades, all-night dance parties and general festive mayhem.

Behind the scenes, the Carnival partying fuels a homegrown industry of costume-sewing and mask-making for the parades. In the gritty Sao Goncalo area on the outskirts of Rio, a woman toils over Carnival masks in a small factory. Other peoples' partying is her livelihood, and from Feb. 9 through Tuesday Feb. 12 (Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday," the last day of feasting before Lent) the festivities will be big and bawdy in Rio and beyond.

On Feb. 13 — Ash Wednesday when Lent begins — much of the partying winds down. Everyone catches up on sleep. The faithful, Catholics and some Protestants, begin Lent's reflective rites and fasting that commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus and culminate in Easter.

In Rio's back-street factories, the mask-painting and costume-making are done. But before long they'll begin gearing up for next year's Carnival.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at

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