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The Carnival of Tenerife is celebrated throughout the Island, although the best known, cheerful, luxurious and extravagant is the Carnival of Santa Cruz, second only to that one of Rio de Janeiro.

Tenerife, a tiny Spanish island off the coast of Africa, is home to one of the world’s largest carnival celebrations. Some quarter of a million party-goers converge on the Canary Island capital of Santa Cruz. This three-week event (culminating in the 24-hour party on Fat Tuesday) draws in everyone, if only because no-one can escape the action which captivates the whole island. As with all carnivals, there is something unique about the one that happens in Tenerife.

Even though the Spanish are normally known for their party spirit, nothing quite matches up to this grand event in preparation, size, and sheer spectacle. Whilst the more sober penance processions of Santa Semana take place in other Spanish cities, the atmosphere is building for the main events of Santa Cruz: the island thinks of nothing else for weeks in advance.

The carnival of Tenerife

One of the most important moments is the Queen´s election gala, with the procession of the most beautiful candidates dressed in grand and imaginative clothes. Naomi Cabrera, aged 22, celebrates after being elected the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival Queen during a contest gala in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. She wears a feathered creation called ‘Cien anos de historia’ (One hundred years of history), designed by Leo Martinez.

The Friday before Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday), a spectacular procession announces the festival with thousands of masked people in fancy dresses, and dozens of bands touring the streets, dancing and having fun until the morning.

With a quarter of a million party-goers, the whole of the island comes down with Carnival fever, with main venues becoming fully booked, the streets being transformed,and stages and tents with music and tapas erected everywhere. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Spanish fiesta without citizens taking it upon themselves to move the party to the streets as well.

On Shrove Tuesday, there is the Parade of Coso, a grand parade of floats and firework displays. The next day, Ash Wednesday, the Burial of the Sardine announces the end of the festivities: the Spirit of Carnival (a cardboard fish) is burned, and then  thrown into the sea accompanied by a procession of mourning widows.

However, the final farewell takes place over the weekend with the celebration of the Piñata Chica, resulting in more festivals and parades.

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