Celebrating Christmas In Brazil

Images of the holiday season are often filled with snow, people bundled up head-to-toe, roaring fires and hot chocolate. Things are a little different in the Southern Hemisphere! Summer starts Dec. 1, with the hottest months continuing through February. This makes Christmas a summer holiday in Brazil.

Brazil shares a lot of its Christmas celebrations with much of the world. It was formerly a Portuguese colony, and many Portuguese, Italian and German immigrants still live there. Combine these traditions with Brazil’s own rich history and you get a celebration that is like no other!

Keep an eye out for Papai Noel

If you visit Brazil close in December, make sure you address your Christmas list to Papai Noel. Just like Santa Claus, you’ll find Papai Noel wearing a big red suit. Look closely though because Papai Noel’s suit is made of silk. Considering how hot it is in Brazil, he probably has to make a change out of his traditional woolen outfit after leaving the North Pole. 

Papai Noel leaves gifts for all the good children. Don’t worry about digging the stockings out of your holiday storage bins though. In Brazil, children normally hang a regular sock close to a window, which Papai Noel exchanges for a gift. Those socks might even show back up in their drawers a week or so later.

Centering on religion

Brazil is predominantly Catholic, and many of the country’s celebrations focus on religion. When celebrating Christmas in Brazil, you might want to attend Missa do Galo, which is a midnight mass service that translates to “Rooster Mass” in English. Displaying a presépio—a nativity scene—is also one of the most popular decorating traditions.

Religious traditions also continue past Dec. 25. According to Brazilian tradition, Christmas decorations, trees and lights should all come down on Jan. 6. This is also called the Three Kings Day, and according to the Christian Bible, it is when the three wise men gave their gifts to the baby Jesus.

You are in luck if Silent Night is your favorite Christmas carol! Noite Feliz is by far the most common and popular Christmas song in Brazil. When you visit, you might hear it being sung in churches or even on the street.

Celebrating with food

Families usually eat the main celebration meal the night before Christmas. This meal is called Ceia de Natal in Portuguese and usually includes a few different traditional foods. If you partake in a Ceia de Natal you might expect to enjoy:

  • Chester
  • Marinated and slow-roasted pork leg
  • Brazilian potato salad
  • Dried and fresh fruits

You’ll eat most of these dishes accompanied by white rice that was sauteed with aromatics like onion and garlic. Farofa—a recipe made of toasted flour—is also usually on the menu.

Whether your favorite holiday tradition is putting up a tree, decorating with lights or buying presents for your loved ones, you’ll find a lot of familiar comforts when celebrating Christmas in Brazil. You’ll also find that you get to experience a breadth of new vibrant traditions that you can only find when visiting Brazil as well.