Ok, Carnaval. Where to even begin?! Carnaval means something entirely different outside of the United States. No weird people traveling from city to city, no faulty rides, no rusty Ferris wheels, no cheesy entertainment and certainly no deep fried twinkies (but maybe that’s just something we do in the south). Anyways, Carnaval in Europe is the season of epic parties and festivals right before Lent in February. Gotta let out your crazy side before 40 days of giving up something “bad” before Easter. As you can probably tell, Carnaval is most celebrated in major Catholic countries, like, hmmm, SPAIN! (You might of heard of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, as it’s the most famous). Carnaval involves dressing up in costumes like a masquerade, usually in big groups and with a theme, going out on the streets and partying all day and all night for two weeks. There are stands that sell booze and food and masks and costume stuff. Its basically one giant party, and in my opinion, an excuse for men to let out their inner cross-dresser and dress up in women’s clothes, a universally popular costume choice here in Spain.
So last weekend kicked off Carnaval in Spain! The most famous Carnaval in Spain is held in Cádiz, a beach town in southwest Andalucía, about 3 hours from me. Everybody talks about the Cadiz carnival here, so I thought since I’m relatively close, I might as well check it out and see what all the fuss was about. And let me tell you, I was NOT disappointed. Last Thursday I caught a bus after work down to Jerez de la Frontera to visit my friend Jen. Jerez is about 40km from Cádiz, which made for the perfect place to stay since hotels in Cádiz sell out months in advance for this weekend.
Map of Cádiz and Jerez
We decided to head to Cádiz for the day on Saturday instead of staying overnight. Most people take the last bus or train into Cádiz at night and then take the first bus or train out in the morning (if they can find it haha). Not gonna lie, we saw our fair share of young people passed out on the beach in costumes on Saturday. Pretty funny! But since it is still pretty cold at night here and it was raining and well insane (and filthy) doesn’t do it justice to describe Cádiz at night during Carnaval, we decided we would just go for the day. Be warned, there are NOT enough toilets for the amount of people there, just FYI. Cádiz is a pretty small city on a peninsula and during this holiday it is filled to the brim with people from all over Spain and the world, and Jen and I threw ourselves right into the madness, dressed as pirates of course!
There are parades, contests, singing and lots of drinking for this holiday. People tend to come in groups and they all dress up in themes or in the same costumes! The more ridiculous the better. It is sort of like Halloween, but much more fun. I also have to mention that this is not just a holiday for young people, I swear half the people dressed up were middle age! People have no shame when it comes to their costumes, and I mean NO shame. The idea of women dressing up in the most sexy, provocative way possible also does not exist. We saw groups of people dressed as cows, bulls, mice, babies, pirates, snowmen, men dressed little girls and as nuns, girls dressed like bullfighters, we even saw a group of guys dressed up as the Spanish World Cup soccer team including Pulpo Paul! If you are ever in Spain in February during Carnaval, it is definitely worthwhile to head down to Cádiz and take in this insane holiday! Everyone is happy (usually tipsy) and friendly and smiling, there is music and singing, and it’s just sheer insanity. Definitely an awesome experience!