Getting Ready for Carnival! 

February is carnival time (carnaval in Portuguese). Towns and cities up and down Portugal come alive with parades, parties and festive gatherings. Everyone seems to join in with unbridled enthusiasm. We always marvel at the elaborate, fanciful and often visually stunning costumes worn by participants in the processions.  

This year, I wanted to meet some people behind the scenes who make it all happen. The person to speak to in Lagos is Corinne Ferreira who, for many years, has created outfits both for carnivals and medieval festivals – and she enjoys participating herself. She collaborates with the Senior University, whose members eagerly take part in the festivities. 

Joining me at Corinne’s house is Susana Matos, the president of the Senior University. We sit in the living room filled with boxes and bags full of supplies. On the large dining room table, there are garments laid out in different stages of preparation. This is obviously the nerve centre. 

Susana informs me that Lagos Câmara encourages the involvement of senior citizens in different activities and carnival is the perfect opportunity to get active. “For the last few years, we have been part of the carnival parade, along with local schools. We generally have around 25 members who take part. With Corinne’s assistance, we can do it in style. She suggests the theme and, with her vivid imagination and skill, creates some fantastic outfits.” 

It turns out that Corinne is a volunteer teacher at the university, where she gives weekly lessons on working creatively with materials. Currently, much of the work is focused on making carnival costumes. “I help them as much as possible, but with the challenging tasks such as mask making, I do it myself,” Corinne explains. “I just love doing the work; it gives me such pleasure.”

How is all the material sourced? “We rummage in our cupboards and find all sorts of things that can be reused.” We go to shops that sell goods cheaply, such as Chinese and charity shops. It is amazing what you can do with old curtains. And look at this,” Corinne laughs and waves a colourful feather duster. “Our theme this year is birds, and these make perfect bird feathers!”

She shows me her own outfit, which she is working on. Her owl costume is only half finished, but when she puts it on, I get the idea. I can’t wait to see the final product on the day, complete with feathers, wings and beak.

Why are they prepared to do all this work each year for the carnival? Susana stresses the importance of keeping this cultural heritage alive, especially as it becomes an inter-generational celebration. “We all enjoy it immensely, both preparing for carnival and then taking part in the procession with the youngsters. The seniors enjoy it just as much as the children do!”

Time is short this year as carnaval is early, but both Susana and Corinne assure me it will all be ready on time. The parade takes place on Friday 9 February. Children from infant and primary schools, along with the contingent from the Senior University, gather at the Praça do Infante (in front of the Santa Maria church) at 10 am. The procession winds its way down the Avenida to Praça Gil Eanes (with the statue of D. Sebastian) and then returns to the original square along Rua 25 de Abril. 

There promises to be music, entertainment and dance at the square and every child receives a lunch pack courtesy of the Câmara. Here, there is plenty of mingling of the seniors, children and parents – and, of course, plenty of onlookers. 

Don’t forget that Odiáxere will be in full swing for the carnival, too. Celebrations organised by Clube Deportivo de Odiáxere extend over several days. On Sunday 11 February at 3 pm, in Largo do Moinho, there is usually a colourful children’s carnival. Look carefully, and you may see members of the Senior University stepping out on a float as part of the Fun Dance group. 

On Tuesday 13 February, the principal day of the carnival, starting at 2.30 pm, the Largo do Moinho explodes in fun and games with the procession of colourful allegorical floats. A little bird tells me that the feathered contingent from Lagos will also make an appearance. 

Let’s all join in the spirit of carnaval this year! 

Main image: Corinne and Susanna


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