The festivals in Brazil are colorful and festive and draw a great number of people including visitors from around the world. Each festival holds meaning for the people of Brazil. Some festivals are purely secular, whereas others have special spiritual or religious significance. Each is unique and interesting in its own right and worth taking the time to experience!
Festa de Iemanja is celebrated on New Year's Day following the New Year's Eve celebration in Rio de Janeiro. This joyous festival takes place on the beach where the Goddess of the Water, Iemanja, is honored. There is singing along the beach and small boats are filled with offerings of rice, gifts, flowers, and perfume and then placed into the water. The offerings are to thank her for all she has done for the people in the past and for what she will do in the future.
Cirio de Nazare is an annual Catholic festival that honors the Virgin of Nazareth. Nearly two million people travel to Belem to participate in this event on the second Sunday in October. This festival is known around the world as one of the largest and most popular Catholic festivals in the world and in the country of Brazil.
The festival honors the person called Virgem de Nazare - legend says she saved the life of a nobleman who had fallen from his horse and that another time she saved a hunter's life as well. The people of Portugal adored her, or her legend, and came up with this festival in her honor.
The festival is actually a procession rather than a stationary event. Catholics join the procession by carrying symbols that resemble various body parts - these represent the healings that have taken place in the name of the Virgin of Nazareth. An image of the Virgin is carried at the front of the procession, which goes for 3.6 kilometers and ending at the Nazare Basilica. The image is secured to a stand and to that stand a very long rope is attached. Anyone who wants to walk in the procession may help carry the rope as well.
The festival, Carnival Rio, is attended by a few million people each year in Rio de Janeiro. It's one of the most secular festivals in Brazil, but always well attended. It takes place during the 5 days leading up to Ash Wednesday. There's dancing, music, amazing floats, food, and drink not only in the city of Rio, but throughout the country. Dance the Samba, listen to all kinds of Brazilian music, and enjoy the seemingly never-ending sights and sounds that is the Carnival. The days spent celebrating this festival are considered national holidays throughout Brazil, so plan ahead - shops won't be open for business.
Come see a Cowboy's Mass with cattlemen from Pernambuco dressed in leather from head to toe just like the cowboy's of the past were dressed. During the ceremony, the cattlemen sit atop their horses while the blessings over the food, dance, and cowboy gear are said. Traditional foods like cassava, bolinhos, queijo do sertao, and rapadura are served. Festa de Sao Benedito takes place in the center west of Brazil during July.
Celebrated on October 12th as a national Brazilian holiday, this festival is to honor the patron saint of Brazil, Our Lady Aparecida. It's also referred to as Children's Day. Aptly named, the main celebration takes place in the City Park of Bahia, but there are special events planned in malls and parks throughout the city as well. Children and adults alike are entertained with shows and fun activities geared toward children.
Festa da Lapinha ou de Reis, also called Reis Holiday or simply Lapinha, is celebrated by people of Catholic origin on the 5th day of January annually in Salvador. What's the celebration about? This traditional festival symbolizes the three Wise Men or Kings visiting Baby Jesus all those years ago in Bethlehem. A procession takes place at midnight on the 5th with groups of people dancing and walking through the streets of Salvador. The participants are called ranchos or ternos and wear specially designed robes with glass embroidered onto them. They walk the streets until they arrive at Lake Igreja da Lapinha. Participants can enjoy acting, food and drink upon arrival at the lake.
This November festival is the largest Christmas festival celebrated in Brazil. It takes place in Gramado in Rio Grande do Sul. Attractions include a musical dramatization of the Nativity story, otherwise called Nativitaten. You'll also enjoy traditional food and drink, lights everywhere, a parade during the evening hours, tree lighting event, and a beautiful Christmas village.
Back in 1986, Eleazar de Carvalho, one of the most popular and talented Brazilian conductors of the symphony, conducted an amazing Christmas concert in Gramado. Since then, thousands of Brazilians come from around the country to enjoy this 60-day festival. One interesting aspect of this Christmas festival is that the decorations used for it are created from recycled soda bottles that school children collect throughout the year!
Visitors to Brazil may want to make sure there isn't a major festival going on before making travel plans. Often times during the larger festivals, it is difficult to move about in the streets or to shop the local shops. Always make your reservations well in advance if you are planning to attend one of the more popular festivals in Brazil.