Three Kings Day in Brazil

What’s up? Today’s free Portuguese lesson for foreigners is about Brazilian culture and celebration. Today we’ll learn about the Three Kings Day in Brazil.

What is the Three Kings Day in Brazil?

The Three Kings Day in Brazil, or Folia de Reis in Portuguese, is a popular and traditional Brazilian festival. It is one of the most emblematic folk festivals in the country. This celebration has a cultural and religious character, and takes place from December 24 to January 6, the official Day of the Kings, or Day of the Three Kings.

The Day of the Kings in Brazil is celebrated to remember the three kings that took presents to Jesus. The Portuguese brought this tradition to Brazil during the colonization.

The Folia de reis is celebrated in the Catholic religion to commemorate the visit of the three wise men (Gaspar, Melchior – or Belchior – and Baltazar) to the baby Jesus. When they saw the Star of Bethlehem in the sky, they went to meet the newborn baby Jesus and took incense, gold, and myrrh to give to him. The gold represented royalty, the incense represented divinity or faith, and the myrrh represented immortality.

In Brazil, this festival is celebrated in different regions across the country. The states where this tradition is most present are Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo and Goiás.

Folia dos Reis

A group of folia de reis consists of a master or ambassador, the three wise men, clowns, military flag bearers, a choir and procession revelers. Let’s check out what each member of this group does and what their role is!

  • Ambassador is the leader of the revelry because they organize the preparations for the event, in addition to being responsible for improvising the sung verses. It is up to the ambassadors to keep the tradition alive and take charge of the oral transmission of traditional songs and verses from each region.
  • Three wise men: participants who personify the kings who visited the Baby Jesus when he was born.
  • Clowns: there are usually three, and they have the custom of calling themselves brothers. Their main function is to protect the group’s flag and perform acrobatics. They usually dress in masks and carry a whistle (with which they signal the arrival and departure of the group). Spectators often throw coins at the clowns as a thank you for the show.
  • Military Flag Bearers: have the function of carrying the flag of the group respectfully. She is presented to the head of the residence where the revelry passes to receive the donations offered by the families. The flag, called “Doctrine”, is made of shiny cloth, and has a print of the Three Wise Men. It constitutes the most sacred element of the feast, and is considered to be blessed. Some spectators ask to touch or pass the flag in important places in their homes, in order to bless it. This respect lasts throughout the year, even after the festival is over: in the house where the flag is kept, there are periodic prayers in front of it.
  • Choir: usually made up of six people who are singers and instrumentalists. They are responsible for keeping the party alive, and playing traditional music.
  • Procession Revelers: people who welcome the group into their home, and who donate food and money. In return, they can use the flag to bless their residence, and hear songs and verses specially sung for them.

How is it Celebrated?

The members of the groups wear colorful costumes, dance and play typical music with different instruments (such as: guitars drums, accordions, tambourines, harmonicas, and other percussion instruments and etc). In addition, during the Folia de Reis, it is possible to watch the parades of the groups dedicated to the festivities through the streets. It’s very beautiful and colorful!

During the festival, groups walk around the streets offering the blessings of Jesus to the people who want to receive them. It’s very common during the party that families give food to the members of the group, helping them to continue walking the streets offering blessings.

Many of the groups celebrate by giving theatrical performances and reciting verses. After the parade, a themed mass is usually held. The celebrations vary according to the traditions and particularities of each region of the country – typical food, music, games and dances will depend on where the celebration takes place.

Take a look at this video and see us having fun! You could have the same in a nice immersion with one of our native teachers!

Folia dos ReisThree Kings Day
Estrela de BelémStar of Bethlehem
Três Reis MagosThree Wise Men
AlfeiresMilitary Flag Bearers
FoliõesProcession Revelers
Apresentações TeatraisTheatrical Performances

What do you think about seeing this with your own eyes? Come study Portuguese in Rio with us and feel the magic of our city! Want to see more of Rio? See some pictures on our Instagram

See you in the next Dica!

Click on the links below to see more related Dicas
Brazil Holidays
Months in Portuguese
Happy New Year in Portuguese
Merry Christmas in Portuguese 

This post is also available in: English Português (Portuguese) Español (Spanish)

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