I think it's safe to assume that the Carnival is as ancient as Christianity itself. Carnival balls were " imported " to Rio from Italy in the late 19 th century. By s, the Rio Carnival as we know it today began to take its distinctive form. The upper classes celebrated the carnival in their private and expensive locations, getting out on the streets only at night, wearing superb masks and dressed in magnificent costumes. The masses, who couldn't afford the balls, were given masks to participate in the streets.