Christmas in Brazil is one of the most important festivals and is often known as 'dia de festas'. Read on to know more about the customs, traditions and celebrations of a Brazilian Christmas.

Christmas In Brazil

Brazil is home to a surfeit of mixed cultures and a diverse population. Since, Christmas is regarded as one of the most important festivals around the world; the Brazilian ethos is also influenced by the festivities of the West. People in Brazil, have now adopted Christmas as their own festival, tweaking the rituals and customs for more distinctiveness. Celebrated on the 25th December, Christmas is awaited every year and is celebrated with reverence. It is also considered 'dia de festas', which means, the mother of all festivals. With multifarious customs and rituals, Christmas in Brazil is in fact, very unique and extremely traditional, though the source of this festival was inspired and influenced by immigrants and foreigners. Common customs include, creating nativity scenes, also known as 'Presepio', and enjoying folk plays based on the shepherds, known as 'Los Pastores'. Children eagerly wait for 'Papai Noel' to bring them gifts every year. Scroll further to learn and understand more about the customs, traditions and celebrations associated with Christmas in Brazil.

Customs, Traditions And Celebrations

Brazil is a Portuguese speaking country and most of the Christmas customs and festivities are inspired by Portuguese, Mexican and American practices. However, there are a few distinct practices that are performed and are unique to Brazilian culture. Read on.

The Presepio is a Brazilian tradition, where the people create nativity scenes and set them up in homes, malls and public platforms. The word is derived from 'Presepium', which means the bed of straw upon which baby Jesus slept in Bethlehem. Presepios are established in most parts of Brazil and was introduced to the country in the 17th century by a Friar called Gaspar de Santa Agostinho. Ever since, the Presepio has been an integral part of Brazilian Christmas traditions. In modern times, Presepios are set up in the beginning of December and are retained all the way till New Year's Eve.

Folk Plays
As per tradition, the people enjoy attending folk plays based on the story of the Shepherds, called 'Los Pastores'. In this version, instead of the male shepherds, there are female shepherds who come to visit baby Jesus and are accompanied by a gypsy. In this play, a lot of dramatic twists and turns, leading to the gypsy who tries to kidnap the Christ child, make for an interesting and customary watch during Christmas in Brazil.

Papai Noel
Papai Noel is the Santa Claus in Brazil and is the country's gift bringer. According to legend, instead of living in the North Pole, he is depicted as living among the icy backdrop of Greenland. The character of Papai Noel was inspired by Santa Claus in the 1950's, and became popular within a decade of its inception. Just like Santa Claus, it is believed that Papai Noel brought gifts to children while they were asleep on Christmas Eve, and the children would eagerly unwrap their presents in the morning. Papai Noel is not bedecked in the traditional red and white attire. Instead, he is portrayed wearing silk robes, even in the warm climate of Brazil, and is shown carrying a brown bag distributing gifts. There is not much information on how Papai Noel travels or what he looks like, since the character idea was imported from North America.

Brazilian Tradition
As a part of tradition, Catholic people in Brazil attend midnight Mass at church; often known as 'Missa de Gallo' (a Gallo is a rooster). The church Mass is given this name, because it is the rooster that announces the commencement of the Mass, and the Mass finishes in the wee hours of the morning. Even though this tradition is still held in most parts of Brazil, places like Rio Grande de Norte, Paraiba and Alagoas have abandoned this tradition due to the high crime rates in the country and for the safety of the women folk. In addition to the Mass, families get together after the Mass and indulge in a grand feast around midnight known as 'Ceia'. In most parts of the country, people prefer attending late after Christmas Masses, so that they can come back early, go for parties, eat and wake up on Christmas morning and head straight to the beach. The beach has become an integral element and a preferred getaway during Christmas celebrations and traditions.

Brazilian Christmas Feast
In Brazil, the Christmas feast is a hushed affair, and is usually served on Christmas Eve. There are a variety of local foods infused with traditional Christmas dishes, making the Brazilian Christian feast, an interesting one. The dishes are -
  • Fresh Vegetables
  • Kale and garlic
  • Exotic fruits
  • Roast Turkey
  • Roast Pork
  • Fish
  • Brazilian Nuts pie
  • Chocolate cake
  • Panettone
  • Cold Potato Salad
  • Colorful Rice
With the high temperatures and the absence of snow, the Christmas in Brazil, may not seem like Christmas at all! However, the erection of Christmas trees, the lights, Masses at church and the Christmas feast at home signify the importance of the festival in the country.