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Winter Wonderland on the Canary Islands

Published: Tue 21 Aug 2012 at 14:29

Updated: Tue 21 Aug 2012 at 14:30

Where2 Magazine

Visit Tenerife in February and you can’t miss the 14 day winter festival of music, mayhem, marching bands and... a sardine.

Second only in size to the world famous festival in Rio de Janeiro, Tenerife’s fourteen day carnival is an extravaganza of colour, dancing, feasting and fun. Everyone on the island seems to pour out onto the streets intent on having  a great time and celebrating life.

How did such a fantastic event come about? Well, the event takes place before the period of Lent, when Catholics traditionally give up meat (carnival literally means ‘goodbye flesh’ in Latin). The days leading up to the period of fasting were seen as a last chance of indulgence and enjoyment...and so the carnival came about.

Nearly everyone who attends does so in costume, with the idea being to dress up as something you’re not. So cross dressing is often the norm! Or you can stick to the theme of the carnival - it’s up to you, just as long as you get into the swing of things. In fact, if you don’t dress up, you’ll stand out. Suitably attired, the dancing begins down by the ports and harbours where music plays and the people sway. Throughout the carnival, bands will compete against one another, a carnival queen and junior queen will be appointed, processions will take place, vintage car rallies roll by, clay pigeons will be shot...everyone celebrates in their own way and are happy to share it with you. As you stroll through the streets of the carnival, you’ll soon realise that this is probably the biggest party you’ve ever been to, with tens of thousands of guests all out for the time of their lives.

Once the competitions are over, the much awaited Cabalgata takes place. Here the winners of all the competitions board floats that are just as over the top as their costumes and parade through the streets, accompanied by carefully choreographed dance troupes. It’s a blaze of colour that combines the best of the Caribbean with South America and the island’s own inimitable charm.

Now, that sardine we mentioned. The final part of this fourteen day thriller takes place with the burial of the sardine. Here partygoers put their outrageous costumes to one side and instead dress in black to mourn the end of the carnival. The occasion is marked by mock burial of the sardine, usually a homemade effigy of a fish, to signal a return to normal life.

Before that happens, however, the carnival goes out with a bang as the sky explodes with a cavalcade of fireworks and everyone wearily makes there way home...until next year.

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