Christmas means cold weather fun for many parts of the world, but in Brazil, Santa turns in his fur-lined coat, hat, and warm boots for warm-weather silks! That's just the beginning. Christmas in Brazil is a diverse celebration of many cultures and heritages that mirrors our own in some ways, but is vastly different in others.
Brazil started out as a colony of the Portuguese, which is the official language of Brazil. Because of this, the most common Christmas tradition, the presepio, will likely be an enduring one. Presepio refers to the bed of straw that Jesus was laid upon at birth, and thus, the nativity scene is central to most who celebrate Christmas.
Catholics attend a Midnight Mass (Missa de Galo) on Christmas Eve night, and then on Christmas Day. Late afternoon masses are held so that people sleeping late after midnight mass can rest, or go to the beach, as it is summer time during Christmas in Brazil. Afterward, traditional Christmas dinner is served, consisting of turkey, ham, vegetables, colored rice, and fruit dishes. It is known as "Cela de Natal", and is held in homes across Brazil, amongst decorations of Christmas trees, fresh flowers, and other decorations.
Outside, most decorations consist of nativity scenes (presepios) or huge Christmas trees made from strings of electric lights. Festivities are held to enjoy the decorations, folk dancing, and singing, among other things, to create the holiday spirit, until January 6th, which is when the Three Wise Men visited baby Jesus to give him their gifts. It is known as Three Kings Day.
One of the most popular events in Brazil is the Christmas of Light event. it was started in 1986, by Elezar de Carvalho, who was one of Brazil's greatest conductors. Through the years, the Christmas of Light event has evolved into a complex, light-filled show, that involves over 2000 volunteers to prepare. With a green theme, its popularity only rises. Decorations are made using recycled soda bottles, collected year round at Gramado schools, and the decorations are reused year after year, causing the event to grow bigger each and every year. Natal Luz, or Christmas of Light, usually runs from mid-November to mid-January.