Brazilian Festivals: How Brazil Celebrates
Festivals in Brazil: Inspired by Religion and Folklore
Every traveler in Brazil knows about its great ecological and cultural diversity. The numerous festivals, most of which are based on religion and folklore, bear witness to this. During these folk festivals, people celebrate together and forget about their different social and ideological backgrounds. It's always cheerful and rhythmic. Good mood and good food are part of everyday life in Brazil, which includes celebrations.
Celebrating for Religious Reasons
Among the religious festivals celebrated nationwide are the Festas Juninas (June Festivals), Folia dos Reis (Gaudi of the Kings), Festa do Divino (Feast of the Divine) and Cavalhadas (Knight Battles).
During the Festas Juninas, Brazilians commemorate saints Antonio, João and Pedro. Filled with traditional dances, typical dishes, balloons, pennant garlands, campfires and rural music, the whole month of June in Brazil is festive. This also includes the re-enactment of a popular story: on his wedding day, the groom tries to escape from forced marriage. He is caught, the wedding takes place at gunpoint and ends in a dance known as “quadrilha.” Caruaru/Pernambuco, and Campina Grande/Paraíba compete annually for the title of the best Festas Juninas in Brazil.
Between Christmas and January 6th, Gaudi of the Kings commemorates the journey of the three kings to Bethlehem, with minstrels and musicians parading through the streets and singing about the journey. Meanwhile, processional participants dressed as clowns collect donations and in exchange give out colorful flag pennants with good wishes. Clowns, who dress in different clothing, play the soldiers of Herod and quote verses. In the end, the collected money is invested in a delicious meal and drinks for the marchers.
The Feast of the Divine takes place seven weeks after Easter Sunday to celebrate the appearance of the Holy Spirit before the apostles. On this day, in many places in Brazil, singers knock on the front doors of many houses and ask for donations. They are accompanied by the apostles, the Virgin Mary, members of the imperial court, the emperor and empress and children with big dolls. There is also music, dancing, a fair and a typical meal consisting of meat, rice and farofa (manioc flour).
The Knight Battles date back to the conflicts between the Moors and the Christians in Europe. They take place throughout Brazil in different versions throughout the year. The dispute is recounted over three days of feasting, which finally ends in the conversion of the Moors to Christianity. Jesuit monks introduced this Brazilian festival to show the indigenous people the power of their religion. The most famous Cavalhadas can be admired in the state of Alagoas and the towns of Pirenópolis/Goiás, and Guarapuava/Paraná.
The Only True Carnival
Even the most popular Brazilian festival, Carnival (Carnaval in Brazilian Portuguese), has a connection to Christianity. Every year, the end of Carnival marks the beginning of the forty-day fasting period until Easter. But before that, Brazilians take plenty of time to celebrate and dance. Carnival attracts not only the locals but also countless tourists from all over the world every year, who especially want to experience the big party in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilians have put their stamp on this famous hustle and bustle, which originally comes from Europe. Carnival is characterized by its Afro-Brazilian influences. The best examples of this are the samba parades, the highlight of all activities in Rio and São Paulo. The Afro-Brazilian-influenced street parades in Recife and Salvador are also outstanding among the countless other carnivalesque celebrations.
New Year with Timpani and Trumpets
“Reveillon” (New Year's Eve) is a very big occasion. People gather together and watch public events with lots of music and artfully arranged fireworks are displayed in the sky. Many Brazilians pay homage to Yemanjá, the queen of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. Especially along the coast, small sacrificial baskets are sent out to open sea as a request for luck and success in the new year. Lavish New Year's Eve celebrations can be found in Salvador, Avenida Paulista in São Paulo, Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro and in Florianópolis.
Bumba-meu-Boi: A Celebration of Folklore
Have you ever heard of the Feast of the Ox? Probably not, because it's from a Brazilian legend. This one tells the story of an enslaved couple. At the request of his pregnant wife, who has an appetite for ox tongue, the man slays his master’s favorite ox. To escape severe punishment, he then has to flee. But the man manages to revive the dead ox with the help of a bellboy. Excessive celebrations went on to be established in honor of the animal.
Today, the names "Festa do Boi Bumbá" (Festival of the Ox Bumbá) or "Bumba-meu-Boi" (Bumba, My Ox) stand for elaborate and very popular festivals at the end of June in Parintins/Amazonas, and the state of Maranhão. At the "Festival Folclórico de Parintins", a competition between oxen, classified as “caprichoso” (moody) or “garantido” (dead sure), is held every year on the last weekend of June. The event attracts up to 35,000 spectators. The ox, that scores the most points after three days of competition, is declared the winner.
More than Just Celebrating
Each country and its inhabitants express themselves through music, literature, legends, religions and dances. Brazilian festivals have absorbed all of these influences. In this way, they preserve and celebrate Brazil's cultural heritage and create a sense of belonging, bringing together people of different ages, skin colors, religions and social classes by reminding them of their common roots.
One thing is for sure: a Brazilian party is always fun and has music with lots of good food and drinks. Join Aventura do Brasil in making your next vacation in Brazil one big celebration!