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Carnival

Carnival

The singing competition (COAC, Concurso Official de Agrupaciones Carnavalescas) is the central event of the pre-Carnaval, with four types of groups taking part - chirigotas, choros, cuartetos and comparsas. About 300 groups in total enter the contest.

There are several types of singing groups and songs at the Carnaval. They perform both at the theatre in the official competition, and also on the street. All wear fancy dress.

Obviously, the programme varies from year to year, but you can take this as a rough guide to what happens on which day of the Carnaval. Check local press and websites for up-to-date information.

As one of Spain's major ports during the 16th century, Cadiz copied the carnival of Venice, a city with which it had much trade, and since then it has become the liveliest and most dazzling carnival town in mainland Spain, famous for its amusing and creative characters and satirical song groups.

The city of Seville is known to dedicate February to carnival celebrations with all the usual song and dance performances. A well known savings bank always brings in the top performing Carnival singing group from the Cádiz festival for a special performance. There is also a children's carnival that can be scheduled on the weekends for up to a whole month.

The Huelva carnival is one of the biggest in Andalucia and is known as the Columbian Carnival, in honour of Christopher Columbus, who sailed from Huelva to discover the New World. The Huelva carnival closed down during Franco's prohibition and it took a few years to start it up again, even after democracy overtook the country. It was not, therefore, until 1983 that this carnival re-started after a long sleep.

The city of Córdoba has a recipe all its own when it comes to the carnival. Whereas it is common to elect a King and Queen of the carnival, in Córdoba history is honoured with the selection of a Sultan and a Sultana. If you are a fan of carnival celebrations, this is definitely one corner of Andalucia worth exploring this time of year.

The Granada Carnival, along with those of the provincial towns, are among the least publicised, but they do take place. The festival usually lasts about a week in the provincial capital and starts well after Shrove Tuesday. It includes the usual singing contests that are held in theatres and other venues. There is also plenty of activity in the streets of Granada (a city that is famous for its "tapa" appetisers that accompany drinks at no extra charge), including a parade.

From 1937 to 1977, the people of Málaga kept their costumes packed away and refrained from meeting to practice and enjoy the old carnival tunes together - much less organise any traditional parades or other celebrations. This was due to the prohibition issued by Franco and strictly enforced in this area.

Spain is a country with a well known Catholic tradition. The carnival is, therefore, celebrated before the 40 days of Lent as a way to let loose before the prohibitions of the upcoming religious holidays. Most Andalucian towns stage a parade, and a dance and a "Carnival Queen" and other singing contests.

Carnival is the biggest event in Cadiz's calendar, and the most important of its type on mainland Spain, just as the Feria is for Seville. People flood in from all over Spain, and beyond, to enjoy the noisy, colourful, festive atmosphere, singing competitions, concerts (rock, flamenco, samba), comedy, children's shows, parades, firework displays and street parties. Carnaval is also celebrated in towns and cities around Andalucia.

The City of Jaen organises a full calendar of carnival events. This is a carnival with six centuries of history behind it with a man named Condestable Iranzo credited with founding the events in this part of Andalucia. As in other areas, it was prohibited for many years during Franco's rule of Spain, but today the Jaen Carnival is going strong.