Since the 2016 Summer Olympics are being hosted by Brazil, I decided to feature Brazil in my only Christmas Around the World post during this year's Christmas in July.
Some random facts about Christmas in Brazil:
Christmas traditions were brought to Brazil by Portuguese settlers.
Brazil has the largest per capita Roman Catholic population in the world. The majority of the celebrating reflects this fact.
A law enacted in the early 1960s called the "Thirteenth Salary" gives every worker an extra month's pay at Christmas. Wow!
Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent season is a vital pre-Christmas event. The focus for people is the preparation of the presepe or manger scene. From simple to elaborate, these manger scenes run the gamut. Some displays may fill an entire room, or even more than one room, and there might even be a quiet manger scene alongside a space age development. The presepe is usually on display through January 6 which is referred to "King's Day" or "Little Christmas." The figure of the Baby Jesus is not placed in the crib until Christmas Eve and the Three Wise Men arrive on January 6.
Santa Claus is called Papai Noel. He wears the traditional red suit, despite the heat, and has a sleigh with reindeer. Papai Noel enters the home through the front door rather than the chimney. Children hang stockings, and put out their shoes near the stove in the kitchen, or sometimes on the roof for the convenience of Papai Noel. Sometimes the jolly man hides gifts all over the house.
The Christmas tree is put up on Christmas Eve, colorfully decorated and strung with lights. The season is highlighted by the making of huge Christmas "trees" of electric lights. These "electric trees" are seen in major cities such as Brasilia, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro throughout the season, reflecting beautifully against the night sky.
The 25 year tradition of the Auto de Natal, or Act of Christmas is an outdoor Christmas play held in Rio de Janeiro. It's a free play which attracts many viewers and it portrays poor people living in Brazil as its theme. There are many other local holiday plays and pageants going on throughout the country as well.
Christmas Eve is a time for family gatherings and is a coming together of several generations. Families attend the Missa do Galo or Mass of the Cock at Midnight. Carol singing follows, followed by a return home for the ceia de Natal or Christmas dinner. There are many traditional dishes served including turkey stuffed with farofa made of toasted manioc flour, onions, garlic, turkey livers and gizzards, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and bacon. Dried cod is another popular dish. In the interior of the country, roast pig might be served. Also, African couscous, steamed fish pie made with corn meal, cassava flour, sardines, shrimp and seasonings, or fried shrimp...and don't forget the champagne! A dessert favorite is rabanada, which is very similar to French toast.
The Day of the Kings is on January 6 and marks the end of the Christmas season in Brazil. This day celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the Christ Child. Since they arrived on camels, Brazilian children put out corn for the tired animals when the Wise Men visit bringing toys and other gifts.
Excluding the extremely hot weather and absence of snow, Christmas in Brazil is very similar to Christmas in the United States.
Reference: Christmas Worldwide: A Guide to Customs and Traditions by Cathy Cunningham Tucker
Always in spirit...