Those who would love to spend Christmas on Christmas Island might enjoy spending Christmas in Brazil. Temperatures range from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A Brazilian Christmas, a blend of Portuguese, African, and Indian customs, is a holy time of remembering the birth of Christ celebrated with close friends and family.
Papai Noel: Although pictured as doing so Santa Claus, or Papai Noel as Brazilians know him, does not travel by sleigh and reindeer. Instead he travels by helicopter. In early December thousands of children fill Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro waiting for the arrival of Papai Noel. The helicopter lands; Papai Noel steps out, and the children flood the field. He greets the children shaking their hands and giving them small toys, such as balloons, water pistols, whistles, and more, as gifts. After the gift-giving Papai Noel steps to a microphone on stage and leads everyone in a sing-a-long. Local singers and musicians accompany the throng as they sing Christmas carols and other popular songs.
Children in Brazil do not hang stockings for Papai Noel to fill on Christmas Eve. Instead, in northern Brazil, children put their shoes by the tree, by their bed, or near a window to be filled with all sorts of small toys and goodies by Papai Noel when he arrives later that night after the children are asleep.
Papai Noel personally visits the children in the southern regions of Brazil earlier in the evening on Christmas Eve. He takes time to talk to each child before giving presents to the child. Often Papai Noel is a relative, a friend of the family, or a co-worker.
Presepios: With the vast majority of Brazilians being a religious people it is not surprising that every church and nearly every home puts up a presepio or nativity scene.
Many churches display life-sized versions of the presepio including life-sized animals. Among those animals is sure to appear a rooster to remind parishioners of the Missa do Galo (Mass of the Rooster). Some church presepios are so elaborate that non-church-goers go to church to see them.
Home presepios may be set up in early December; others are not set up until Christmas Eve day. Some are small fitting on a coffee table; others fill a whole room. Some are simple; others are abundant. Whether large or small, many include pieces that have been handed down for generations.
Most home presepios include the Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the three magi, angels, a star, cows, chickens, sheep, and a rooster. One of the peculiarities of these home presepios is the figures may not be the same scale. It is not uncommon for Jesus to be larger than some of the other figures. Another peculiarity comes in the personal touches. One may see Brazilian animals, Brazilian fruits, airplanes, trains, and other “impossible” figures included in family presepios.
Christmas cards: Usually people try to send their Christmas cards so the recipients get them before Christmas; but in Brazil, people think nothing of sending their cards after Christmas. Many cards arrive at their destinations between December 25 and January 6.
Most cards have the traditional wintery scenes showing lots of snow, Santa Claus and his reindeer, Christmas trees covered in snow, and children wrapped in heavy, warm winter clothing. However, more cards are appearing showing traditional Brazilian weather and scenes of sandy beaches, palm trees, Christmas trees, and, more importantly, no snow.
Look for more about Christmas in Brazil at CustomsOfChristmas.com.