Many Brazilian Christmas traditions come from Portugal, since Portugal ruled Brazil for many years. The scenes of the Nativity, known as Presépio are very popular.
They are established in churches and homes throughout the month of December.
The Christmas games called ‘Os Pastors’ (The Shepherds), like the games in Mexico, are also popular. In the Brazilian versions of the work, there is also traditionally a shepherdess and also a woman who tries to steal the baby Jesus.
Most people, especially Catholics, will go to a midnight mass service or Missa do Galo (the mass on the list). The mass usually ends around 1.00am. On Christmas day, people could go to church again, but this time the services are often in the afternoon.
After the Missa do Gallo, there are often large fireworks displays and in large cities there are large displays of electric lights shaped like a Christmas tree.
In Brazil, Santa Claus is called Papai Noel and Bom Velhinho (Good old man).
Many Christmas customs are similar to those of the USA or the United Kingdom, although it’s summer and it’s very hot at Christmas in Brazil. Many people like to go to the beach.
Sometimes children leave a sock near a window. If Papai Noel finds your sock, he will exchange it for a gift!
Participating in a ‘Secret Santa’, known as ‘secret friend’ (secret friend) is popular in Brazil at Christmas. It is traditional to give small gifts throughout December using a fictitious name (aliased). On Christmas day, people reveal who their secret friend was.
The most popular Christmas song in Brazil is ‘Noite Feliz’ (Silent Night).
It is common in Brazil to obtain a ’13 salary ‘at the end of the year, that is, in December, you receive double the normal amount of payment for that month! The idea is to help boost the economy around Christmas. This has been going on for decades and most people do not even question that other countries might not do it!
Favorite Christmas meals in Brazil include pork, turkey, pork, ham, salads and fresh and dried fruits. Everything is served with rice cooked with raisins and a good spoon of “farofa” (seasoned yucca flour). Popular Christmas desserts include tropical ice cream and ice cream.
The Brazilian population is a mix of many different cultures and people who originally came from different countries, so you can have Italian Panettone in São Paulo, Portuguese salted cod in Rio de Janeiro and some African food in the northeastern states of Brazil.
The food is usually served around 10 pm on Christmas Eve and at exactly midnight people greet each other, make a toast wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and after that they will exchange gifts. Christmas lunch is also special and after that some people go to the homes of family and friends to visit.
The epiphany, when people remember the Magi that visit Jesus, is widely celebrated in Brazil.