Celebrating Christmas & Réveillon In Brazil

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and soon enough it will be 2016. With the strong dollar, this may be the best time to sneak south of the border to spend a unique holiday season in Brazil!

Christmas is one of the most important annual festivals in Brazil, a major Christian nation. Brazil is home to the world’s largest floating Christmas tree. Located on Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, the tree weighs over 300 tons, stands at 53 meters high, and is lit up by 2.5 million lights. While on display, the tree will be moved around the lake, allowing it to be viewed from different parts of the city.

Rio's floating Christmas tree

Brazil has some unique customs when it comes to Christmas time. Most Brazilian families have a big Christmas dinner on December 24th. The meal is normally served around 10pm on Christmas Eve and exactly at Midnight people greet each other, make a toast wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and after that they will exchange presents.

Favorite Christmas foods in Brazil include pork, turkey, ham, salads and fresh and dried fruits. Everything is served with rice cooked with raisins and a good spoon of “farofa” (seasoned manioc flour.) Popular Christmas desserts include tropical fruit and ice cream.

Most people, especially Catholics, will go to a Midnight Mass service or Missa do Galo (Mass of the Roster). The mass normally finishes about 1.00am. After the Missa do Gallo there are often big firework displays and in big towns and cities there are big Christmas Tree shaped displays of electric lights.

Fireworks in Rio

During New Years in Brazil, Reveillon parties are major events that incorporate traditions and celebrations that take place all over the country. Brazilians know how to celebrate life through music and dance, and with the exception of Carnaval, Reveillon is the second largest party celebration in Brazil, with millions of people from around the world populating the beaches of Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro will be hosting the 2016 Olympics, so the festivities will officially start with this year’s Reveillon. As it happens every year, Rio de Janeiro will have different stages for the reveillon concerts that will take place in districts throughout the city.

In Brazilian culture, starting off the New Year on the right foot is essential; this year it is especially important with the development of current plans for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. There are some interesting aspects in the party that makes the celebration a genuine Brazilian New Year’s Style. Those traditions not only provide visitors with a better insight on Brazilian culture, a combination of African and European heritage, but can also bring good fortune and health, according to popular beliefs.

For starters, almost everyone in Brazil wears white as a symbolic gesture to welcome peace and prosperity in the New Year. There are also typical Brazilian foods people eat like lentils and pork and drinking champagne that is supposed to increase their luck for the New Year. Other traditions include having individuals chew on seven pomegranate seeds at midnight and then preserving the seeds in their wallet. It is also common for people to run into the ocean to jump over seven waves; for every wave they jump, a wish is made for the New Year.

Lastly, many locals and travelers make it a priority to please Goddess lemanjá, “Queen of the Ocean” in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé. Gifts for Yemanjá include floating lit candles, wooden toy boats with offerings and white flowers into the ocean. If the offerings are sent back to shore, the Goddess is displeased and will not grant the wishes of the hopeful individual. Thousands and thousands of people participate in the offerings of Goddess lemanjá, and for visitors witnessing this ritual for the first time, it is an extraordinary sight to see.

New Year's tradition in Rio

But there are many other options for those planning to celebrate the holidays in Brazil. Here are some suggestions:

Very Exclusive New Year’s Eve: Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha is part of an archipelago comprised of 21 islands and rock islets. It’s a paradise with a sanctuary for sea turtles, whales and spinner dolphins. Since it is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, only a limited number of people can be there at any time. This provides a setting to one of the most exclusive New Year’s Eve all over the country.

Every year, many local and international celebrities book rooms at the limited luxury boutique hotels in Fernando de Noronha. They plan their VIP New Year’s eve in this paradise months in advance. But there is always a couple of places available for those last minute travelers.

Fernando de Noronha offers visitors with many wonderful and remote beaches to explore including: Baia do Sancho, considered by many one of the most beautiful beaches in the world; Baia dos Porcos, formed by pools that are home to an enormous diversity of colorful fish; and Baia dos Golfinhos, where people can approach friendly mammals.

The culinary experience on the island incorporates only the freshest of seafood caught from its crystal waters. Lobsters, octopus, fish and even sharks are infused with Pernambuco’s spices and served with tropical fruits and cassava. One of the specialties of Noronha is fish wrapped in banana leaves and “cartola,” a traditional northeastern dessert made with banana, and “queijo coalho,” a Brazilian cheese.

Different Group of Party Loving Brazilians – Florianopolis

Florianopolis is the perfect option for those looking for a different type of party loving Brazilians. Floripa, as locals named the city, is defined by its geography, with more than 42 stunning beaches lining its coasts, along with mountains covered by Atlantic Rainforest, beautiful lagoons and a relaxed atmosphere.  The island is the perfect destination for those seeking sun and sand, outdoor activities and parties.

Florianopolis is located in the south of Brazil. Its Azorean heritage, made up of immigrants who settled in the region 250 years ago, can still be seen in the fishing vessels, lace-work, folklore, cuisine and architecture. This tradition takes on more visible traits in villages like Santo Antonio de Lisboa and Ribeirao da Ilha. To the north, the beaches have calm waters and good tourist facilities. To the east, you have many beaches ideal for radical sports. To the south, beaches such as Armação and Pânano do Sul provide tranquility with a backdrop of colorful boats and fishing nets.

What to do:

Take a Boat Tour to Ilha do Campeche.  The island is considered a National Heritage and Landscape site thanks to its Archeological sites with Prehistoric rock inscriptions. The island is an ecological sanctuary with beautiful and crystalline beaches. The best way to reach the island is through the fishing boats leaving the Armação beach.  Those spending a day on the island will find activities such as diving and guided walks to archeological sites or to Pedra Fincada, which overlooks the entire length of the beach at Campeche.

Beaches, beaches and beaches.  Florianopolis spreads throughout the long island, and each of its 42 beaches has its own characteristics and offers options that go from the sophisticated and trendy lounges, to secluded spots or surfing paradises.

Praia Mole and Joaquina with its young people and surf vibe, is considered one of the best spots for those looking to meet people and have a good time. In the north of the island you can find Praia Brava, a surfers hangout spot, and Jurere International, with its charming bars and restaurants.  In the south of the island you can find the ‘fishermen villages’ with peaceful and quiet beaches and wonderful restaurants like those in the Pantano do Sul and Ribeirao da Ilha beaches.

Seafood tradition. Florianopolis has one of the best gastronomy in the country. The abundance of fresh seafood and the strong Portuguese influence makes fish a star in all menus in the island. Also very known, the local oysters are considered one of the best in the world.

Escape Everything – Sao Miguel dos Milagres (AL)

Tired of parties and fireworks? Make your way to one of Brazil’s more remote places: Sao Miguel dos Milagres is a fishing village divided by only one main street and a handful of wonderful beaches by an emerald-colored sea. The city is famous for its rich gastronomy and fresh seafood. One of the main attractions in Sao Miguel dos Milagres is to navigate in “jangadas” or sailboats. It allows visitors to ride a sailboat down to the tide pools in order to snorkel in the pristine waters of the reefs, alongside the beaches of San Miguel and Toque. Another interesting attraction is dolphin watching and visiting the Sanctuary of Manatee, located along the Tatuamunha river.

Close to Sao Miguel, travelers will find the Praia do Patacho, which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil and has hundreds of coconut trees framing a wide strip of sand in a sea of green hues.

The lack of developed urban centers fostered the formation of a gastronomic circuit among the community’s lodges, which are well structured and charming. The place is ideal for romantic getaways and honeymoons.

No matter which place you choose, you can be sure that you will have an amazing holiday season. Most importantly, you will kickstart 2016 in the right place: BRAZIL!

About Brazil Tourism: 

With its spectacular beaches, lush rainforests, rich culture, exotic cuisine and exciting nightlife, Brazil is one of the most compelling countries to visit today. Travelers are invited to explore Brazil’s incredible geographical diversity – from the wetlands to the beaches. With a beautiful, tropical climate, Brazil is an easily accessible, exotic get-away for couples, families and business travelers.

For more information, go to VisitBrasil.com

Courtesy: João H. Rodrigues

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