Christmas Traditions in Brazil

Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo

When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in the 1500s, they found the natives or Indians. Africans and Europeans from many different regions soon followed the Portuguese. In the last decades Brazil has welcomed immigrants from all of Asia, and especially from Japan. Such a large country with such a variety of inhabitants celebrates Christmas in many different ways.

In the southern part of the country, there is a lot of European influence in the Christmas celebrations. In the North and Northeastern parts of Brazil, the Portuguese influence merges together with the African and native Indian traditions. In these areas specific Christmas traditions were established. In some cases these traditions are directly related to the meaning of Christmas. For example, the “pastorinhas” and the “reizados” have traditional Christmas themes.

But other traditions exist that do not have anything to do with the celebration of Christmas in the Christian sense. For example, the “bumba-meu-boi” is a cowboy celebration from the Northeastern part of Brazil which has nothing to do with Christmas.

It is also interesting to see the influence that the Europeans have had on the celebration of Christmas. It is quite common for a German “stollen” and an Italian “Panetone” to be found sitting next to the traditional turkey surrounded by many other different kinds of sweet and salty delicacies from around the world.

Christian families attend church on Christmas Eve where the children make special Christmas presentations that include songs. After their program, the children receive candies and cakes. As with the US and Europe, most homes have a Christmas tree and family members exchange gifts with one another.

Father Christmas is called Papai Noel. For those who have enough money, a special Christmas meal will be chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, fresh and dried fruits, often with beer. Poorer people will just have chicken and rice.