Here’s everything you need to know about the Lazarim Carnival, Portugal’s most genuine Carnival! Learn about the 2024 program and what to expect from the community celebrations that bring a sea of people to Lazarim.
They often say Carnival lasts three days, but in the tranquil village of Lazarim, about 14 km from Lamego, the Carnival festivities last for four days!
So, between February 10th and 13th, 2024, anyone who wants to join the Lazarim Carnival celebrations is welcome!
Activities during these days are diverse, and good spirits are guaranteed as the “caretos” and “senhorinhas” with unique facial expressions take to the streets, accompanied by traditional drums and other curious activities such as the Burning of the Old Donkey, the Reading of the Godmother’s and Godfather’s Testaments, and “caldos de Farinha”, or flour-based dishes.
You can also witness the blessing of the masks, which is when the “caretos'” masks make their first appearance at Carnival, and talk to the artisans who shape this unique cultural heritage.
So, you have every reason to go and explore the stern masks of the Lazarim Carnival this year!
In fact, the Lazarim Carnival is an important part of Portuguese traditional folklore that is worth preserving! Ready for it?
Lazarim Carnival Program in 2024
February 10th (Saturday)
10:00 AM: Wild boar hunting;
11:00 AM: Craftsmen meeting (CIMI) + street entertainment + roaming “caretos” (Lazarim and Góis);
Day 11th of February (Sunday)
6 PM: Burning of the Old Donkey.
February 12th (Monday)
9 AM: Photographic Raid;
3 PM: Visits to Mask / Costume Artisans (meeting place CIMI) + Caretos on the Loose (Lazarim and Baçal).
February 13th (Carnival Tuesday)
3:00 PM: Day of the Lazarim “Caretos” (Departure of the new “Caretos” through the streets);
3:30 PM: Reading of the “Comadre and Compadre” Testaments;
4:30 PM: “Caretos” Parade through the streets accompanied by the Lazarim Drum Group;
5:00 PM: Burning of the “Compadre and Comadre”;
5:30 PM: Mask and Costume Contest;
6:30 PM: Bean stew (feijoada) and flour soup (caldos de farinha).
*Official information taken from the Lazarim Carnival Facebook Profile.
The Festival of “Caretos” and “Senhorinhas”: The Best of the Lazarim Carnival
In Lazarim, tradition is taken very seriously, and during the Carnival season, the “Caretos” and “Senhorinhas” take to the streets properly masked.
The Carnival costumes consist of the enigmatic wooden masks and the attire, i.e., the clothing that the “Caretos” wear.
The attires are handmade straw suits worn over old clothing, sometimes patched, adorned with corn leaves – basically, whatever the residents can lay their hands on that allows them to remain anonymous.
Given that “Caretos” remain unidentified, it becomes crucial, especially during moments of settling scores when neighbors express their “complaints.
It’s the Reading of the Comadre and Compadre’s Testament, which usually takes place on Carnival Tuesday.
They also wear accessories such as cowbells, branches, and other unusual items, like apples or oranges spiked on the horns of the masks!
They dance, run, play, and engage in antics, showcasing theatrical performances worthy of a famous stage, both among themselves and with the visitors.
What the “Caretos” and demons never do is remove the mask or speak, as, as mentioned earlier, secrecy is key and ensures the ancient mystique of this rustic carnival.
The woden masks of the “Caretos” of Lazarim
Several aspects make the masks of the Caretos de Lazarim unique.
Carved from alder wood, the artisans of the parish do an incredible job, given the creativity and imagination required to create figures from a piece of wood that are both beautiful and terrifying.
As they are made by hand, each one is unique and may take up to a week to complete.
This knowledge is passed down from generation to generation, and each artisan has a distinctive signature. A Lazarim mask can cost around €600, depending on the artisan and the level of detail and skill involved, attracting a considerable demand.
Mind you, the masks are crafted from exposed alder wood, meaning they lack color. As one artisan explained, some masks receive a finish to preserve the wood, but it’s a rare occurrence.
The masks of Lazarim take on the forms of demons, witches, or grotesque figures with facial features resembling animals, presenting a challenge to one’s imagination. Expect to encounter many horns, beards, bulging eyes, happy faces, and sad faces in a colorful parade that symbolizes the pride and local identity of Lazarim.
The Sacred and the Profane
The rituals celebrating the Winter Solstice assign a central role to masks in conveying the meaning and symbolism of the festival.
To the “careto,” the mask imparts power and transforms it into a representation of the sacred and profane antagonisms that invade localities at this time of year.
This quasi-supernatural power grants them, for a few days, the right to social representation and the freedom to act outside the established rules.
Thus, a playful dance unfolds between order and chaos, heaven and hell. Clad in eccentric and original costumes, the masked figure simultaneously makes pagan pleas for protection to Mother Nature and petitions in the name of Saints and Sacred Figures.
They leap, play, offend, and embrace. Everything is allowed during this time.In CIMI – Centro Interpretativo da Máscara Ibérica.
What are the “Senhorinhas” of Lazarim?
The “Senhorinhas” of Lazarim are the female counterparts of the “Caretos” of Lazarim, meaning they are the feminine representations of these artisanal masks.
However, it’s important to note that seeing a “Senhorinha” from Lazarim doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a girl underneath the mask.
This is because the masks and costumes can be worn by both men and women. These “Caretos” are known for their playful nature, and, according to them, it’s all in good fun!
How is the preparation for Lazarim Carnival?
During the meeting with artisans, one of the faithful keepers of the art of mask-making told us about the last weeks before Carnival. And, as you can imagine, every minute counts to finish the masks and costumes on time.
It’s worth mentioning that these artisans have other professional occupations, meaning a significant part of their day is dedicated to work and other responsibilities.
See how the preparation for the Lazarim Carnival unfolds, according to what is outlined at CIMI.
Seamstresses of Revelry
During the four weeks leading up to Carnival, the craftswomen of Lazarim work diligently, often beyond regular hours, to create the original costumes for the Entrudo.
Distinctive and creative outfits are crafted from a variety of materials, straw, raffia, old quilts made into strips, colorful ribbons, pieces of rabbit fur, and lace.
Combined with the masks, they become true works of art that reflect the madness and joy of the festivities and emphasize the jumps and enthusiastic movements of the Caretos.
The craftswomen of Lazarim are not only responsible for making the costumes of the Caretos. They also decorate and adorn the masks, participate in organizing the festivities, collaborate in cooking, and in the end… “collect the reeds”.In CIMI – Centro Interpretativo da Máscara Ibérica.
A feijoada e caldo de farinha de Lazarim
The feijoada and flour porridge of Lazarim. As tradition goes, this year there will also be feijoada and flour porridge distributed for free in Lazarim. And if you don’t have tableware, you can buy it on-site, so there’s no excuse not to participate in the celebration.
If you saw the previous photo, you already know the origins of feijoada and flour porridge in Lazarim, closely tied to the customs of the region, such as the curing of pork in large wooden chests filled with salt.
Because it’s a festive time, where indulgence is embraced, the food is enriched with pork meats and shared with everyone.
Community spirit and mutual aid at its best!
The Reading of the Godmother and Godfather’s Testament
Imagine an animated spectacle in the heart of Lazarim during Carnival.
The protagonists? Two enthusiastic groups – the single boys and the single girls. The most anticipated moment? When the reading of the testaments take place in the public square.
The young single girls kick off with the “godmother’s testament,” a satirical critique of the village boys.
The response? Well, the hilarious “godfather’s testament,” where the single boys unveil their caricatured view of the village girls.
Resulting from secret meetings and investigations throughout the year, these testaments playfully expose flaws and defects.
Those chosen to lead this spectacle are those nearing marriage age, each leading their side in the gender war that turns the performance into a mischievous and entertaining event.
It’s safe to say that, in jest, some truths are spoken!
CIMI – Centro Interpretativo da Máscara Ibérica (Interpretative Center of the Iberian Mask)
The CIMI, or Interpretative Center of the Iberian Mask, operates in the mansion of the Viscounts of Lazarim, in the heart of the village of Lazarim.
It features a very interesting exhibition of traditional masks, as well as costumes and objects related to winter festivities in Portugal and Spain.
In addition, the informative panels are quite useful to understand the role of each participant in the Lazarim Carnival.
If you’re traveling with children, you’ll be pleased to know that there is a space in the Interpretative Center of the Iberian Mask dedicated to the little ones, where they can draw and paint Lazarim masks.
It is also a cultural space where events take place during the Lazarim Carnival.
Stalls and Where to Eat in Lazarim
If you’re planning to spend a full day in the village, you can rest assured that there are plenty of places to grab a bite.
In addition to the village cafes, there is a giant tent organized by the festival committee where you can sample some local delights. I must say the Rice with traditional sausages was particularly delicious!
Furthermore, there were stalls offering pork sandwiches, sweets, and other foods to satisfy your hunger.
Lazarim: Location, Directions, and Accommodation During Lazarim Carnival
The village of Lazarim is home to around 500 residents and is located near Lamego, in the Viseu district.
Check out the car rental prices to go to Lazarim, Lamego.
If you need accommodation, my recommendation is to stay in Lamego, where you have various hotel and local lodging options, such as the Hotel Solar dos Pachecos (3 stars) or Quinta dos Carvalhos if you prefer to enjoy the amenities of a Wine Tourism spot in the heart of the Douro.
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