Christmas is a time of celebration and traditions all around the world. In Brazil, the holiday season is a unique blend of cultural influences, resulting in a vibrant and festive celebration. From decorations to food and music, Christmas in Brazil is a one-of-a-kind experience. In this article, we’ll explore the traditions and customs that make Christmas in Brazil so special, what Christmas in Rio de Janeiro is like, how to decorate a Brazilian Christmas tree and we will have some fun with facts about Brazilian Christmas.
The History of Christmas in Brazil
A Portuguese Influence
The roots of Christmas in Brazil can be traced back to the country’s Portuguese colonial past. When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in the 16th century, they brought with them their Catholic traditions, including Christmas celebrations. As a result, Christmas in Brazil has a strong Catholic influence, with many customs and traditions originating from Portugal.
A Blend of Cultures
Over the years, Brazil has become a melting pot of cultures, with influences from African, European, and indigenous traditions. This blend of cultures has resulted in a unique and diverse Christmas celebration in Brazil, with each region of the country having its own distinct traditions.
When is Christmas Celebrated in Brazil?
In Brazil, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, just like in many other countries. The season typically starts in early December and continues until December 25th. During this time, you will see various Christmas decorations being put up, including nativity scenes, lights, and Christmas trees. The celebration culminates on December 24th with the Christmas Eve dinner and continues with the exchange of gifts on December 25th. Usually, the Christmas decorations and festivities will continue throughout the rest of the month until January 1st or even January 6th, with the Three Kings Day celebration.
Christmas Decorations in Brazil
In Brazil, the Christmas spirit takes over the whole city and all the houses, stores and shopping centers are decorated with Christmas ornaments.
One of the most popular Christmas decorations in Brazil is the nativity scene, or “presépio” in Portuguese. These elaborate displays depict the birth of Jesus and are often found in homes, churches, and public spaces. In some cities, there are even competitions for the most creative and elaborate nativity scene.
Christmas Trees in Brazil
Christmas trees are also a common sight in Brazil during the holiday season. However, instead of the traditional evergreen tree, many Brazilians opt for artificial trees made from metal or plastic. These trees are often decorated with lights, ornaments, and tinsel, just like in other parts of the world.
Lights, a lot of lights, Brazilian Pisca-piscas
It’s really common to find in houses around the city lots of lights of different shapes shining all the time. They are called pisca-piscas in Portuguese.
In Brazil, Santa Claus is known as “Papai Noel” and is often depicted wearing a red suit and hat, just like in other countries.
Christmas Songs in Brazil
Music holds a significant and indispensable role in the festive atmosphere of Christmas celebrations across the vast and diverse country of Brazil. Numerous traditional Christmas songs, brimming with rich cultural heritage, are beautifully rendered in the mellifluous tones of the Portuguese language, resonating with heartfelt emotions and spreading joyous sentiments to all who listen. However, it is noteworthy that alongside these enchanting melodies, English Christmas songs have also effortlessly permeated the musical landscape, captivating the hearts of the Brazilian people and finding a place of honor in their cherished repertoire of Yuletide tunes. Amongst the vast array of beloved Christmas tunes that have won the affection of the Brazilian populace, “Noite Feliz” (Silent Night), “Bate o Sino” (Jingle Bells), and “Então é Natal” (So This is Christmas) stand resolutely at the pinnacle of adoration, evoking feelings of nostalgia, unity, and the unifying spirit of this enchanting season.
Christmas Traditions in Brazil
Christmas in Brazil is celebrated on the 25th of December. To be more specific, at midnight on the 24th of December to the 25th of December, Brazilians usually wish each other a Merry Christmas and exchange gifts. Usually in Brazil, the families spend the Christmas Eve together as Christmas symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ and is connected to a strong idea of community and family, especially because Brazil is a very religious country (Catholic).
Christmas dinner in Brazil is a grand affair, with families and friends coming together to enjoy a feast. Families typically prepare a big Christmas dinner and, at midnight, they feast together. Close friends usually visit each other houses to eat and wish other families a Merry Christmas. The menu often includes traditional Brazilian dishes, such as “pernil” (roast pork), “salpicão” (chicken salad), and “farofa” (toasted cassava flour). Many families also incorporate dishes from their cultural backgrounds, resulting in a diverse and delicious spread. Get to know more about Christmas food in Brazil on our dica about it.
As a predominantly Catholic country, attending Midnight Mass (Missa do Galo) on Christmas Eve is a common tradition in Brazil. TV channels often celebrate this famous Missa do Galo live and families sit to watch it together.
Christmas at Work
At work, it’s really common to have a secret Santa, in which coworkers draw each other names and give gifts while they celebrate the final days of the year in the company.
Fun Facts About Christmas in Brazil
- The largest floating Christmas tree in the world can be found in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It stands at 278 feet tall and is lit up with over 3 million lights.
- Due to the warm climate in Brazil during Christmas, Papai Noel could be even sometimes depicted wearing shorts and flip flops instead of the traditional boots and coat.
Christmas in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is known for its vibrant and lively celebrations, and Christmas is no exception. The city is adorned with colorful lights and decorations, and the beaches are filled with people celebrating the holiday season. As we said, the most iconic Christmas event in Rio de Janeiro is the floating Christmas tree that we talked before, which is a must-see for anyone visiting the city during the holiday season. It is located at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.
Christmas in Brazil is a unique and festive celebration that brings together different cultures and traditions. From decorations to food and music, there is something special about the way Brazilians celebrate the holiday season. Whether you’re in Rio de Janeiro or a small town in the countryside, Christmas in Brazil is a time of joy, love, and togetherness.
How is it in your country?
When is Christmas celebrated?
How is Papai Noel called in your language?
What do you do on this date?
Before we go, Rio & Learn wishes all of you a Merry Christmas, full of peace, joy and of course, gifts!
Feliz Natal, galera!