Being a vast country consisting of multiple cultures and ethnicities, Brazil has many traditions and customs that even some Brazilians don’t understand, depending on which part of the country they’re from. It’s these quirks that make Brazil such a rich, fascinating and, at times, downright eccentric country that can only be truly understood by locals or those that have spent some time there.
It may have Catholic roots yet Carnival is well-known for its extravagant floats and parades, exotic dancers with glittery bikinis, and heaving street parties that begin days or even weeks in advance of the official Carnival date. It’s a time to either escape the country or head to a quieter, countryside retreat, or simply leave cares behind for a few days and embrace the nationwide holiday mood.
You can’t just decide you’re ready to leave the bar and go home – not before a saideira. A saideira is the very last drink of the night when you’re in a bar and if you and your pals are ready to leave, you will have to order one last saideira and the bill.
Brazilians probably know the true passion football brings more than almost any other country. Everyone from men and women to children will usually have a team and football stadiums become charged with emotions as rival teams from across the country battle it out on the pitch to the sound of thousands of fans cheering, booing and singing.
This one is more in Rio de Janeiro where many people align themselves with a samba school the same way they would a football team. A samba school is not exactly a school but an organisation that prepares to compete during the parades at Carnival. They often provide social support including free education to surrounding poor communities and build fierce loyalty among their supporters.
Brazil has many unique traditions related to New Year’s Eve, from wearing white to bring good luck in the following year (some people wear underwear or accessories in red for love and yellow for money) to jumping seven waves on the shoreline for more good luck.
Wednesday is the quasi-official day for feijoada in Brazil and restaurants will make sure it’s on their lunch menu. Those unaccustomed may find themselves desperately in need of a nap post-feijoada, but most Brazilians are seemingly able to eat this heavy meal of black beans, dried meat, sausage, rice and farofa before returning to work with little more than an expresso to ward off the post-meal sleepiness.
So there are barbecues and then you have the Brazilian churrasco. Churrascos are one of the most common ‘casual’ gatherings where friends and family meet at someone’s home to chat, drink and eat what seems like an endless stream of tender beef, smoky chicken wings, buttery garlic bread, squeaky cheese and proper pork sausages. One person will take it upon themselves to walk around the group with a tray of the barbecued goods while everyone else drinks cold beers or potent caipirinhas.
Second only in size to Salvador’s and Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, the Parintins Folklore Festival in Amazonas – sometimes known as the Boi Bumba festival – is one of Brazil’s largest annual events. The festivities are built around the legend of a resurrected ox and, like the Carnival parades, teams battle it out to retell the story in the most impressive, flamboyant way. Taking place over three days in June, the festival’s performances blend Brazilian, indigenous and local cultures.
Iemanja is the Goddess of the Sea and many worshippers honor her by providing offerings in mini-boats during New Year celebrations or leaving offerings of fruit, candles and cigarettes in shallow holes in the sand throughout the year. The goddess is from Candomble, a West African religion that has integrated into Brazilian customs.
The humble fruit has taken the health world by storm and is often eaten with salads or on toast sprinkled with an assortment of incredibly healthy toppings. Yet Brazilians like their avocado sweet and it is often consumed as a smoothie with full-fat milk, sugar and, sometimes, honey too.
The Day of Patron Saint Cosme and Patron Saint Damian is celebrated on September 26 for Catholics and September 27 for those who worship the andomblé, xangô, xambá, umbanda and batuque religions. It is a custom in Brazil to give sweets and toys to children who spend the day on the streets collecting as many treats as possible.