Carnival celebrations in the tiny village of Lazarim near Lamego in northern Portugal are a world apart from the flashy affairs that are popular in Brazil. Instead of scantily clad dancers, feathers, bright colors and party music, be prepared to encounter “caretos” (people disguised as the devil) sporting carved wooden masks and unusual costumes fashioned from materials such as wool, twine, cane, and sackcloth.
Lazarim boasts that its pre-Lenten celebrations (Entrudo in Portuguese) are the “most genuine in Portugal.” Although other villages might dispute that, there’s no escaping the fact their traditions and costumes are old and unique.
Careto is one of the oldest traditions that’s still being practiced in Portugal. It’s a pre-Roman, Celtic ritual that only a handful of villages still partake in.
The hand-carved masks are works of art. There’s even a small museum in the village so the craftsmanship can be appreciated year-round.
Those in costume take advantage of their newfound anonymity to play tricks on the rest of the townsfolk and indulge in mischievous behavior, free from the fear of public censure and reprisals.
On Shrove Tuesday, all the caretos gather and parade through the village, accompanied by a marching drum band. They are closely followed by the comadre (godmother) and compadre (godfather), two young singletons charged with publicly humiliating their peers by reading out a list of humorous and risqué acts they got up to in the previous year, usually found on Facebook.
Once all the embarrassing “facts” have been shared, the community gather to partake in a bean and meat stew that’s been simmering away in cauldrons around a bonfire in a neighboring square.