Quantcast
DECK THE HOLIDAY'S

Sunday, April 20, 2014

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PONGAL FESTIVAL!








   Pongal is a harvest festival-the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving.  In an agriculture based civilization, the harvest plays an important part.  The farmer cultivating his land depends on cattle, timely rain and the Sun.  Once a year, he expresses his gratitude to these during the harvest festival.  With the end of the est month of Margazhi (mid December to mid January) the new Tamil month of Thai heralds a series of festivals.  The first day of the month is a festival day known as "Pongal Day".  Pongal means the 'boiling over" of milk and rice during the month of Thai.










    The act of boiling over of milk in the clay pot is considered to denote future prosperity for the family.  Traditionally celebrated at harvest time, it is a celebration of the prosperity associated with the harvest by thanking the rain, sun and the farm animals that have helped in the harvest.  Pongal is celebrated by the Indian state of Tamil Ndu as well as Tamils worldwide, including those in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauitius, South Africa, USA, Canada and Singapore.  The festival is at least 1000 years old although some believe that the festival is more that 2000 years old.  It used to be celebrated as Puthiyeedu during Medieval Chola empire days.  It is thought the Puthiyeedu meant the first harvest of the year.  People of all religions celebrate the Pongal festival.











    Tamils refer to Pongal as "Tamizhar Thirunal" (meaning "the festival of Tamils").  This festival originated in Tamil Nadu.  The saying "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" meaning "the birth of the month of Thai will have the way for new opportunities", often is quoted regarding the Pongal festival.
   Usually, the festival takes place January 12th to the 15th (on the Gregorian calandar).  The festival is celebrated 4 days from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi (December-January) to the third day of Thai (January-February).  The first day, Bhogi, is celebrated by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials, by setting them on fire, marking the end of the old Thai and the emergence of the new Thai.










   The astronomical significance of the festival is that it marks the beginning of Uttarayana, the sun's movement northward for a six month period.  Markar Sankranthi refers to the event of the sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn).  While Pongal is predominantly a Tamil festival, similar festivals are also celebrated in several other Indian states under different names.  In Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka, the harvest festival Sankranthi is celebrated.  In northern India, it is called Makara Sankranti.  In Maharashtra and Gujarat, it is celebrated on the date of the annual kite flying day, Uttarayah.  It also coincides with the bonfire and harvest festval in Punjab and Haryana, known as Lohri.  Similar harvest festivals in the same time frame are also celebrated by farmers in Burma, Cambodia, and Korea.

THE CALAVERAS COUNTY FROG JUMP FROM CALIFORNIA!


The book that started it all





    "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is an 1865 short story by Mark Twain, his first great success as a writer, bringing him national attention. The story has also been published as "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" (its original title) and "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". In it, the narrator retells a story he heard from a bartender, Simon Wheeler, at the Angels Hotel in Angels CampCalifornia, about the gambler Jim Smiley. Twain describes him: "If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to—to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road."




Samuel Clemons aka "Mark Twain"


    "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is also the title story of an 1867 collection of short stories by Mark Twain. Twain's first book, it collected 27 stories that were previously published in magazines and newspapers.
    Twain first wrote the title short story at the request of his friend Artemus Ward, for inclusion in an upcoming book. Twain worked on two versions but neither was satisfactory to him—neither got around to describing the jumping frog contest. Ward pressed him again, but by the time Twain devised a version he was willing to submit, that book was already nearing publication, so Ward sent it instead to The Saturday Press, where it appeared in the November 18, 1865 edition as "Jim Smiley and His





   Jumping Frog". Twain's colorful story was immensely popular, and was soon printed in many different magazines and newspapers. Twain developed the idea further, and Bret Harte published this version in The Californian on December 16; this time entitled "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", and the man named Smiley was changed to Greeley.







About the Frog Jump and Its History

    In 1928, the Angels Camp Boosters Club (which is still very active in promoting fun events in Calaveras County) organized a celebration in honor of the first paving of Main Street in Angels Camp and chose to use Mark Twain’s famous story as the focus for their event. The first Calaveras Jumping Frog Jubilee drew over 15,000 people to Angels Camp. Visitors came from all over the countryside on foot, in wagons, and on horseback.Today, thousands of frog jump contestants from all over the world give the Celebrated Calaveras Frog Jump unique international acclaim. Plan to attend the






   Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is held annually, the third week in May at “Frogtown”. Breathtaking rodeos, live concerts, exhilarating midway rides, country crafts, professional and amateur art and exhibits, lots of food, a beautiful setting, and much more make this a fun weekend for the entire family. For more information, take a look at the official frog jump site at www.frogtown.org






SEVEN SINS CHOCOLATE CAKE!!


Seven Sins Chocolate Cake





Not long ago I sampled a cake from a bakery that boasted seven forms of chocolate. "Seven Deadly Sins" they called it.  It had two types of dark chocolate frosting, milk and white chocolate pastry cream, white chocolate curls... you get the idea. All those chocolates sound interesting when used in one cake, but I thought those "seven sins" could be more... sinful.  The gears began to turn.

Since then I've been scribbling in my recipe journal and testing decadent flavor combinations; a bit of espresso here, a bit of whiskey there...

Last week I finally pieced together what I consider the best of the best, and here you have it. A truly sinful Seven Sins Chocolate Cake. 







Shall we meet the players?








1,2,3:  The trio of pastry creams all work together without being overly sweet, and they all retain their individual nuances of flavor when eaten together.  I could eat a vat of each on any given day.

4: Can we all agree that a "Seven Sins" cake should have Devil's Food as a base? Yes? Good. This one is moist and has a structure sturdy enough for torting.

5: Milk chocolate marshmallow frosting - it's as good as it sounds, and probably a bit lighter tasting than you'd expect.

6: Dark chocolate drizzle is the perfect counter for the light-tasting marshmallow frosting.  It demands attention, both in flavor and appearance.

7: Squares of chocolates and chocolate shavings are a pretty and tasty decoration. It's like dessert on top of dessert.









Seven Sins Chocolate Cake

Yield: 15+ servings                                                                                         [click for printable version]
I recommend making this cake over the course of 2 days. The devils' food cake and pastry creams can be made on the first day, and the frosting, drizzle and assembly can be completed on day 2.


Devil's food cake:
This is my favorite devils' food cake recipe adapted from a Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe. This double layer cake gets torted and filled with three types of pastry cream.

Tip: Instead of picking up a torted cake piece with your hands, slide it onto a large plate. This will keep the cake from breaking into pieces and makes it easy to slide the piece back onto the filled cake.

1 oz. fine quality unsweetened baker's chocolate, chopped evenly
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup hot coffee  (can use hot water or decaf coffee if caffeine sensitive)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, tightly packed
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
16 tbsp (2 US sticks) unsalted butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch cake pans with vegetable shortening and line with a circle of parchment paper. Grease paper and flour; tap out excess and set pan aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the chocolate, cocoa and hot coffee (or water) until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, sour cream, half the chocolate mixture and vanilla until just combined.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt on low for 30 seconds. Add the softened butter and the remaining chocolate mixture.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer off between additions, add the egg mixture in two parts, starting on medium-low speed and gradually increasing to medium. Beat on medium speed for 45 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. The batter will be fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes (check at 30). Cake is does when a toothpick tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed in the middle.  Let the baked cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn cake out onto a wire rack sprayed with cooking oil.  Let cool completely.


Trio of pastry creams:


Tip:  Be sure to temper eggs carefully! If you goof a little and pastry cream turns out lumpy, pass it through a fine sieve before refrigerating.

2.5 oz. dark chocolate
2.5 oz. white chocolate
2.5 oz. milk chocolate
¼ cup cornstarch
2 cups evaporated milk
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tbsp. whiskey
3 tbsp. dulce de leche (find this canned in the ethnic food aisle)
1-2 tsp. espresso powder (to taste)



  1. Have ready three small bowls (2 cup size), wiped spotless of any moisture.  Chop the chocolate evenly and place each type of chocolate in a separate bowl.  Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of the milk. Beat the whole eggs, then the yolks, one at a time, into the cornstarch mixture.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the remaining milk and the sugar; bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  4. While whisking the egg mixture, slowly pour 1/3 of the boiling milk into it, to temper the eggs.
  5. Return the remaining milk in the saucepan to medium-low heat.
  6. Pour the hot egg mixture into the saucepan in a thin stream, whisking, so as to not scramble the eggs.
  7. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to boil.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot pastry cream over the chopped chocolate, dividing evenly between the three bowls.  Let stand for 2 minutes, and then stir each bowl until mixture is well incorporated.  Mix 1 tbsp. butter in each of the bowls.  When butter has melted and is thoroughly combined, fold in 2 tbsp. whisky into the dark chocolate pastry cream; 3 tbsp. dulce de leche into the white chocolate pastry cream;  1-2 tsp. espresso powder into the milk chocolate pastry cream.
  8. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surfaces of each type of pastry cream so they do not form a skin. Cool to room temperature.
  9. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Milk chocolate marshmallow frosting:
12 tbsp (1 1/2 US sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
6 oz. milk chocolate melted and slightly cooled
7 oz. marshmallow cream


  1. With a hand mixer or standing mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat butter for 3 minutes until fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and mix on low until incorporated.  Add melted chocolate and beat until fluffy. Add marshmallow cream and beat until frosting has lightened in color and all ingredients are well combined.
  2. Scrape down bowl and mix again.  Transfer 3/4 cup to a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner snipped for later use. 


Fill and frost the cakes:
Cut each cake in half horizontally (this is called "torting"); pipe a line of frosting around the edge of the first cake piece. This makes a reservoir in which to hold the pastry cream (this is extra insurance, sometimes pastry cream is lax if not well refrigerated). Spread the pastry cream inside the icing ring and top with another cake piece.  Pipe an icing line as before and fill white chocolate dulce de leche cream; repeat with the next cake piece and milk chocolate mocha cream.  Top with the final cake layer and frost the entire cake.  You may choose to crumb coat the cake and refrigerate, then do a final smooth coat of icing (recommended).







Dark chocolate drizzle:


Note: This portion should not be made ahead. The chocolate thickens quickly and needs to be applied to the cake 10-15 minutes after making it.

4 oz. dark chocolate chopped evenly
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla

  1. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. In a 4-cup measure, heat cream until very hot but not boiling (about 45 seconds for me, but all microwaves vary); you can also do this in a saucepan over medium heat if you don't have a microwave. 
  2. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes.  Whisk until all chocolate is completely melted and mixture is consistent.  Whisk in corn syrup and vanilla.  Let mixture stand until slightly thickened - about 10-15 minutes.  Pour over cake; allow the mixture to run down the sides of the cake in fingers. 

Final flourishes:

Chocolate shavings

Your choice of chocolate pieces - this version has 16 squares of chocolate and 16 silver chocolate buttons (product sources are listed in blog post)
Remaining 3/4 cup frosting in piping bag/zip-top bag

  1. Pipe frosting in mounds around the outer edge on top of the cake.  Sprinkle-on chocolate shavings.  If using, place a chocolate square in the center of each mound and place a silver button in front of each square of chocolate.
Important! Keep this cake refrigerated, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.  Pastry creams and frosting flavors are fully developed at room temperature.

BABA YAGA THE RUSSIAN FOLKLORE WITCH!!




    Myths and legends are a part of virtually every culture. One of the most interesting legends of Russian culture is that of Baba Yaga. She is, however, not unique to Russia. There are similar stories about her, under other names, in Poland as well as in the Czech Republic.
    The figure of Baba Yaga is most often pictured as that of an old hag on a broomstick, reminiscent of the kitchen witches we often see today. Some believe that she might have been the precursor for the ugly, old crones that most often represent witches at Halloween.
    In truth, however, Baba Yaga is a complicated creature associated as much with fertility and fate as she is with death. Some believed that she also had the gift of prophecy and great wisdom. However, for reasons never understood, she seldom chose to use those skills without exacting a gruesome payment. Anyone wishing to partake of Baba Yaga's wisdom had to take on a challenge, which began with a trip to her home hidden deep within a treacherous forest. Those arriving there would often decide to turn back without confronting the hag because of the gruesome look of the house itself. As legends have it, Baba Yaga's home sat atop four chicken legs that allowed her to move it from place to place at will. Surrounded by a black picket fence adorned with flaming human skulls, those arriving on her property were no doubt scared about what they were about to encounter.
    Inside the house, it was said that the crone sat at a spinning wheel, spinning with thread made from the tendons and muscles of human beings. Not prone to help anyone out of a sense of kindness, Baba Yaga would put those who sought her assistance through a series of tests before agreeing to help them.
    Few ever completed them and even some of those who did were never seen again because they dared to anger the old woman in the process. She then turned on them with her sharp teeth. It was said that she could rip apart an animal or a human in less that 30 seconds.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

CHEESE ROLLING FROM STILTON, ENGLAND!



    Cheese Rolling has become an annual event in Stilton and every May Day hundreds of villagers and visitors make their way to the main street to watch the teams battling for the honour of being called the "Stilton Cheese Rolling Champions".

Stilton History and The Cheese



The Bell Inn, where the rolling starts!



Ancient Stilton

    No one knows who lived here first - the earliest finds date from the time of the Roman occupation and are probably associated with the road that runs from London to the army fortress at Lincoln, which the Saxons later called Ermine Street.
    For centuries this road seems to have been little used, the important route was the east-west road, Fen Street and Church Street, which is why our oldest building, the Church of St Mary Magdalene, is found away from the main road that now exists.






    Stilton gets three mentions in the Doomesday Book of 1086 as three landowners, the King, the Bishop of Lincoln and Eustace held land here. The Great North Road had become a busy thoroughfare by the fifteenth century and Stilton was a well-known staging post; at one time there were 14 inns or ale houses for a permanent population of around 500 to 600 people. While most earned their living from farming, an analysis of the 1841 census, taken just before the long distance coach trade all but disappeared to be superseded by the railway, showed that occupations directly connected to the coaches were important too.







Village Pubs &  The Cheese

    All four of the present inns have very ancient origins, even though their buildings have been changed and modernised several times. We owe our famous cheese to the coach trade. Any Stiltonian can relate tales of visitors asking "where is the cheese made?...", only to be told "‘in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire".
    The most widely accepted explanation is that the cheese came down to be sold at one of the coach stops in Stilton, perhaps The Bell or The Angel. As early as 1722 Daniel Defoe (the author of "Robinson Crusoe") ate some here and mentioned that the village was already famous for its cheese. The recipe was passed down through the Beaumont family of Quenby in Leicestershire. By 1830 a former housekeeper at Quenby, Elizabeth Orton, made cheese in her farmhouse. Her daughter married Cooper Thornhill who kept The Bell Inn and he sold the cheese. He was famous (or infamous) as a larger-than-life character who long held the record for riding to London and back.








Modern Stilton

    Today, all Stilton cheese is factory made, but still only in the three counties with milk produced locally. It takes a gallon of milk to make one pound of cheese and a lot of skilled hard work is still needed. Each cheese matures for 3 months after which the blue veins appear naturally as oxygen is allowed to enter through holes pierced by stainless steel needles. A whole cheese weighs 15lb.



One of the officials watching a race



    Stilton’s dependence on the main road has been its undoing twice; in the middle of the nineteenth century when the railway line passed to the east through Holme and Yaxley, and in 1959 when the present A1 Stilton by-pass was opened. The village became a ghost village; The Bell actually closed and fell into disrepair and other businesses also disappeared. In 1962 Tom McDonald of The Talbot and Malcolm Moyer of The Bell, aided and abetted by telephone engineer Fred Linstead who provided a telegraph pole, cheered up their drinkers by organising the first ever Cheese Rolling along a course outside the present Post Office on Easter Monday.





A Little History On The Cheese Roll

How did it start?

    It would be nice to be able to say that the event is "as old as the village" or that it's origins have been lost in "the mists of time" but really no one knows how far back the tradition of rolling the cheeses goes. Midway through the Twentieth Century, when the village had turned into rather a quiet place having been by-passed by the A1 and the inns and businesses had seen a big drop in their trade, a landlord of one of the pubs decided to revive an ancient tradition. Or so he told everyone! He could be seen rolling a Stilton Cheese along the road outside his pub. People came to stand and watch and eventually joined in. And so the sport began - again.








The Rules

    It was originally run on Easter Monday and there was not a lot of uniformity to it to begin with. It seems a piece of wood in the shape of a Stilton Cheese was produced, a starting line drawn up somewhere between the The Stilton Cheese Inn and The Talbot and the finish line was outside The Bell Inn. Brave teams of Stilton men would then vie to roll the cheese to it's finish and, after the ensuing scramble, and many tussles and spills, the team that ended up steering the cheese to the finishing line would win! Nowadays, the starting point is always outside The Bell Inn and The Angel and the finish is a line drawn at the cross roads between the bottom of Fen Street and Church Street. The contestants are teams of 4, either all men or all women and each team member has to roll the cheese at least once during it's flight. It's a knockout competition with quarter's, semi's and a grand final.






PHANTOM CATS AND GHOSTLY DOGS SCARING PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!!



    During Halloween season, when images of ghosts and goblins start to inhabit our consciousness, it is important to remember that people are not the only ones who have been known to return to our world of perception as spirits, apparitions, phantoms or poltergeists. Dogs, cats, sheep, horses, and cattle have been known to haunt human beings throughout the history of folklore.
    Typically, parasychologists consider ghostly animals as those creatures whose deaths were unusually emotional in some way, and that their new identity of a ghost is a curse that never allows them to est. Sometimes they are harmless, although frightening. However if they appear colored dark black than usually they represent a premonition that something dire is about to happen. In Trucker lore, the image of a black dog is usually the ultimate sign of dread and bad luck.
    In East Anglia generally, whenever someone was o their death bed, people would say that "the black dog is at his heels". In the British Isles, old timers can spin many a yarn about ominous "black dogs: roaming deserted roads at night. There have been numerous reports in local newspapers of a monstrous black dog with huge teeth and claws from the area around Yorkshire, northern England. Some believe that anyone who sees the dog clearly will die soon after the encounter. In Wales, they have what's known as the red-eyed Gwyllgi, or the Dog of Darkness. Essex, for example, is said to be haunted by a dog that apparently can only be seen by other dogs, as perfectly normal pet dogs go up to it and react as if it were just another dog when the human eye can see nothing. According to legend, in real life the dog was a bull terrier, which lived in a inn from about 1900 to 1914 and was a fearsome fighter, having killed several neighborhood dogs and never suffering a defeat.







    In Wichita, Kansas, Mrs. Lowanda Cady was asleep one night when she was suddenly awakened by the sound of barking even after her dog had already died. The barking sounded exactly the same as her late dog's bark and it actually drove off a thief who was raiding her kitchen at the time.
    Even more numerous are the stories of places reported to be infested with phantom cats. Very often, a single street alone can average a history of at least four reported feline haunting's. Paranormal researches and believers in spirits alike attribute the excessive number of cat ghosts to the fact that cats, more than any other domestic animal, meet sudden and unnatural ends, especially in impoverished districts.
    In many different writings through history, cats were explained as animals that from all ages were associated with the supernatural from the pyramids of ancient Egypt to French sorcerers who used cat's blood to treat ailments. In 1750 in the Hebrides, cats were thought of as extraordinarily psychic and sometimes burned as if they were witches. So many of them met this horrible fate that some believe it unleashed an army of cat phantoms across the world and contributed to the superstitious belief that a black cat crossing your path was a sign that harm would soon come your way.
    There is a website called Ghosts.org, that has a plethora of subscribers who claim to be plagued by the spirits of companion animals. Also, it is currently chronicling the adventures of some Australian parapsychologists searching for the ghost of the last bear killed in England.

CARNIVAL FROM BRAZIL!!








    The Carnival of Brazil, is an annual festival held 46 days before Easter. On certain days of Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term "carnival", from carnelevre, "to remove meat". Carnival celebrations are believed to have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which, adapted to Christianity, became a farewell to bad things in a season of religious discipline to practice repentance and prepare for Christ's death and resurrection.










    Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In the southeastern cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, huge organized parades are led by samba schools. Those official parades are meant to be watched by the public, with mini parades ("blocos") allowing a public participation can be found in other cities. The northeastern cities of Salvador, Porto Segur and Recife have organized groups parading through streets, and the public interacts directly with them. This carnival is heavily influenced by African-Brazilian culture. Crowds follow the trio electricos floats through the city streets. Also in northeast Olinda, carnival features unique characteristics, part influenced by Venice Carnival mixed with cultural depictions of local folklore.










    Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of hug proportions. The country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. The consumption of beer during the festival accounts for 80% of annual consumption and tourism receives a 70% boost of annual visitors. The government distributes condoms and launches an awareness campaign at this time to prevent the spread of AIDS and other STD's.

History of Carnival

    The modern Brazilian Carnival originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641, when the city's bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and creolizing elements derived from Native American and African cultures.
    In the late 19th century, the cordoes (cords, laces or strings) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were pageant groups that paraded through city avenues performing on instruments and dancing. Today they are known as Blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or special t-shirts with themes and/or logos. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighborhoods. They include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.











    Block parades have become an expressive feature of Rio's Carnival. Today, they number more than 100 and the groups increase each year in size. Blocos can be formed by small or large groups of revelers with a distinct title with an often funny pun. They may also not their neighborhood or social status. Before the show, they gather in a square, then parade in sections of the city, often near the beach. Some blocos never leave one street and have a particular place, such as a bar, to attract viewers. Block parades start in January, and may last until the Sunday after Carnival.










    Samba schools are very large groups of performers, financed by respected organizations who work year round in preparation for Carnival. Samba schools perform in the Sambadrome, which runs 4 entire nights. They're part of an official competition, divided into 7 divisions, in which a single school is declared the winner, according to costume, flow, them, and band music quality and performance. Some samba schools also hold street parties in their neighborhoods, through which they parade along with their followers.
    Carnival time in Rio is a very interesting, but also the most expensive time to visit Rio. Hotel rooms and lodgings can be up to 4 times more expensive than the regular rates. There are big crowds at some locations and life is far from ordinary in many parts of town.











Sambodromo

    The Carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo take place in the Sambodromo, locate close to the city center. In the city of Rio, the parades start at roughly 9-10 p.m., depending of the date and end around 5 in the morning. The Rio Metro (subway) operates 24 hours during the main parade days.
    The actual amount of spectators in the Sambodromo may be higher than the official number of seats available. Like any other event the better the seats the higher the price for them.









Music

Samba
    The Samba originated in Bahia from the African rhythms, it was brought to Rio around 1920 and is still one of the most popular styles of Brazilian music, together with Samba-pargode and Samba-reggae. From intimate samba-cancoes ( samba songs) sung in bars to explosive drum parades performed during Carnival, samba always evokes a warm and vibrant mood. Samba developed as a distinctive kind of music at the beginning of the 20th century in Rio. In the 1930's, a group of musicians led by Ismael Silva, founded in the neighborhood of Estacio de Sa, the first Samba school, Deixa Falar.
    In the following years, samba has developed into several directions, from the gentle samba-cancao to the drum orchestras which make the soundtrack of carnival parades. One of these new styles was the Bossa Nova.












    In the beginning of the 1980's, after having been sent underground due to styles like disco and Brazilian rock, the Samba reappeared in the media with a musical movement crated in the suburbs of Rio.
Axe'
    This is not exactly about style or musical movement, but rather about a useful brand name given to artists from Salvador who made music in northeastern Brazilian, Caribbean and African rhythms with a pop/rock twist, which helped them take over the Brazilian hit parades since 1992. Axe' is a ritual greeting used in Candomble' and Umbanda religions, and means "good vibration". The word music was attached to Axe', used as slang within the local music business by a journalist who intended to create a derogatory term for the pretentious dance-driven style.