While the official Carnaval starts 4 days before Ash Wednesday, the festivities actually start a month before the Carnaval (known as Pre-Carnaval), and include – Beauty Contests, Dance Festivals, a Float Parade, Children’s Parades, and other activities. During the actual Carnaval, streets are closed and all regular daily activities come to a halt.
The Saturday start of the festival includes a tradition known as the Batalla de las Flores (Battle of the Flowers ). It is really a giant parade started by a float on which the Carnaval Queen, accompanied by her many attendants, dances and throws flowers to the crowd. After the principal float, come groups of dancers and people in costumes. The most recognizable of the costumed folks are the MARIMONDAS (hooded figures with long noses) and GIGANTONAS (dwarfs with giant heads).
The Battle of the Flowers is followed by the “Prolongación de la Batalla de Flores” – the prolongation of the Battle of the Flowers known as the Desfile del Rey Momo (Parade of the King Momo ). Rey Momo is the King of the Carnaval and when he makes his entrance, the Carnaval officially starts.
Sunday, is the Gran Parada de Tradición (Great Parade of Tradition ). The main dances of this parade are the torito, hilanderas and GARABATO. Monday is the Gran Parada de Fantasia(Great Parade of Fantasy ) and the Festival of Orquestas (not the classical kind). Tuesday is the CARNAVALADA, the Festival of Dances, and Joselito Se Va Con Las Cerinzas (Joselito goes with the ashes or the funeral of Joselito).
Joselito is the character that most represents the Carnaval of Barranquilla . He is the symbol of the joy and party of the Carnaval. On Tuesday, he dies. People cry over the body and he is symbolically buried by the “merry widows that shared his days of festiveness.” The Funeral of Joselito marks the official end of the festival, but it is also symbolic of the “Farewell to the Flesh” and the beginning of Lent.