If you enjoy immersing yourself in different cultures and uncovering their local traditions when you travel then attending the Easter celebrations in Brazil could be a fascinating experience for you.
Whereas in the US Easter may be celebrated by exchanging chocolate eggs and attending church, in Brazil the celebrations are altogether more vibrant and flamboyant. Easter celebrations in Brazil are plentiful and varied so from party animals to devout religious followers, there is something for everyone.
Brazil is home to the world’s largest Roman Catholic population (circa 130 million people) and as such, Easter is a huge celebration for Brazilians. The celebration is also known as “Pascoa” in Portuguese (the native tongue of Brazil). Though the overall number of people declaring themselves as Catholic has declined in recent years, their presence in Brazil and the vibrancy of Catholic celebrations are as strong as ever.
The 130 million Catholic followers constitute 74% of Brazil’s overall population where the second largest religious demographic of Protestants (of which there are circa 28 million) equal to 15% of the population.
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A Brazilian Festa
Extrovert travelers in particular will love the parties and celebrations that are held all over the country on Good Friday. Street vendors line the streets selling a variety of wares from trinkets and souvenirs to exotic snacks and alcoholic beverages.
Purple is the theme color of choice for Easter in Brazil and it is prevalent everywhere you look – from the color of the street decorations to the packaging of the chocolate eggs.
An interview with Bethel local George Lacque gave a fascinating insight into the country’s traditions during Easter time. He states excitedly that the “street vendors are everywhere” and explains that each church in Brazil hosts its own party in celebration of the occasion.
Brazilian Food for Thought
The start of Lent in Brazil (and the start of a period of having no meat within the diet) is celebrated with Mardi Gras, similar to the celebration of the same name in the US. In place of the red meats that are so commonplace in Brazilian diets, locals enjoy diets rich with fish. A popular dish that is enjoyed during this time is Bacalhau – salted cod served with a side of rice and potatoes and therefore incredibly filling.
See also: Must try foods in Brazil
Easter Family Traditions in Brazil
Brazilians can be very religious and as such, they will typically go to church during the Easter period, as well as spending time together with their friends and families at home. Chocolate eggs are exchanged in Brazil in the same manner as they are in many other countries around the world. Once opened, there is typically a toy or some candy pieces hiding inside the eggs. This tradition transcends across global boundaries and stems from ancient cultures and the continued notion that eggs are associated with new life and fertility.
In place of Easter egg hunts that American children enjoy during this period, in Brazil, the godparents take center stage in the family festivities as they are the ones who typically shower their godchildren with gifts (both chocolate and otherwise).
The family aspect of Brazilian Easter celebrations is essentially the same as in many countries and is a universal tradition. Families will sit down together and enjoy a lunch with their extended family. Food is particularly special during this day since it marked the end of Lent, and the end of having to omit certain foods from a diet. Eilan Amaral, a Brazilian living in Connecticut describes the day as “special”.
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Letting History Repeat Itself
In addition to the parties and parades that dance along the main streets of Brazil’s cities, some places around the country re-enact the final days of Christ. This elaborate ceremony features reenactments of his arrest, his trial and his crucifixion among other scenes. The affair is far from macabre however and should be seen as a celebration of the life of Christ rather than a morbid depiction of his final days. Indeed, it is typically colorful as people dressed in costumes dancing and cheering are common sights in accompaniment of the procession.
A similar celebration takes place during holy week also as the residents of towns and cities around Brazil use paints and chalks to decorate their roads with colorful patterns in celebration of Easter. A procession will then walk over these murals, with the participants holding statues of the body of Christ and his mother Mary. In other cities around Brazil, such as Ouro Preto, the decorations are even more elaborate and instead of simple paintings and drawings, the streets are decorated with flowers, coffee beans, wood shavings, flour and many other items in order to create a beautiful carpet for the procession.
Holy Week in Brazil
There are numerous other important events that occur during holy week.
Domingo De Ramos is an event occurring on the Sunday before Easter in order to commemorate Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem – a time at which the citizens spread their palms in front of Christ as he passed by them on his mule. In Brazil, people carry palms which they then have blessed for good luck and fortune.
For Lava-pés, 12 people from numerous different social classes will have their feet washer by Priests during an Easter mass on Thursday.
The Mardi Gras celebrations in Brazil are arguably the most well-known holiday in the country with the Rio celebration making the top of many people’s bucket lists around the globe. During this celebration, the streets are filled with parades, samba dancing, parties that last all day and all night, and people dressed in exotic outfits laden with feathers and sequins. The great thing about this celebration is that you do not have to be a great performer or even Brazilian in order to participate. As a matter of fact, anyone can join in with the festivities. Eccentric outfit is optional.
Though Brazilian Easter celebrations have of course changed and adapted over time, some of the traditions have held true for centuries. According to a number of reports, the first Mass that was celebrated in Brazil took place in the year 1500, on Easter Sunday, April 26th.