New Year in Brazil

This year is going to be my third New Years in Brazil and this year it will be different, because today is incredibly hot. The temperature in Santos was at a breathtaking 42 degrees, even though my weather-app told me, this should only be the “real-feel”. 35 degrees is what the my thermometer is showing in the living room, while the ventilator over my head is humming on the highest possible frequency. This is to say: it is hot! But I like that, because my last two New Years in Brazil have been rather cold and very rainy, which is common here, since New Years falls into the rainy season and I was spending the last two years in the area around the amazing Atlantic Rainforest. And while it is in fact difficult to concentrate in this temperature, I will try to tell you how Brazilians celebrate a New Years Eve in general. Since Christmas is not celebrated a lot differently from what I know (you eat a lot, you drink a lot, you hand over the presents on the 24th – though this is handled differently in other Brazilian families), you have to pay attention to a couple of things on the New Years Eve.

Prepare to pay a lot

It first starts with the question, where you are going to celebrate. I will spent this year same as the last two years at the beach, and this is where most of Brazilians are heading (though I would like to know, how you celebrate it in the interior differently, unfortunately the plans have not worked out for this year). The question where to celebrate is important for several reasons: first the traffic jam (going to Santos from São Paulo will take you several hours instead of about 50 minutes) and second the costs! Prizes for apartments, parking, hotels etc. easily double or triple during this time. Even the restaurants and bars seem to have a special price. Nevertheless the beaches get full, incredibly full. Here in Santos it was the first time I’ve seen people sitting in their beach chairs under sunshades for several rows behind each other – for almost all of the beach which is about 4.5 kilometers wide. It is crazy. But I am getting carried away.

Wear white clothes

For New Years you must wear (new) white clothes! There is no joke about that and it is in fact very funny to see so many people dressed in white on a day. This might stem from Candomblé, where people wear white, and it is meant to scare bad spirits away and to be open and ready for the new year. You see a lot of shops being prepared for this occasion. Of course, you can spend a lot of money dressing up, but you don’t have to – a white tshirt is also fine.

Chose the color of your underwear carefully

Secondly: you should chose your underwear carefully! Because the color of your underwear determines what you are hoping and asking for in the next year. You should wear yellow for money, pink for love, blue for health and red for passion and sex. There is also green for hope, but I don’t understand what sense it makes to hope for hope.

If you managed to be at the beach (in time) and wear the appropriate clothes, you are basically set and can spend the time until midnight eating and drinking (something Brazilians love to do). Or just one of it. You think the fireworks are next? You are wrong, and as a foreigner you should know what to expect, because you might have to participate.

Jump 7 waves to start the new year

Brazilians (at the beach) start the New Year with jumping 7 ways right after midnight. It is one wave for each day of the week and it is supposed to bring you good luck (kind of worked for me in the last two years, so I will not question it). Another way of starting the new year is eating 12 grapes, one for each month, which is also supposed to bring luck – though I never tried that. If you thought about bringing flowers, now is the right time to throw them into the ocean. This is not another way to ask for luck, but a tradition from Candomblé (amazing religion, I will write about this another time). Yemanjá, the goddess of water and the ocean, loves flowers and if the flowers don’t come back, it means she accepted them. After that you are done. Relax, enjoy the fireworks – if you happen to be in Rio, they are said to be amazing – or light up your own. Oh, and don’t forget to drink more, because January 1st is a holiday in Brazil too.

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