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Year after year, Rio de Janeiro ranks top of the list of the world’s best places to celebrate New Year’s. With jaw-dropping firework displays, two million people happily crammed onto the famous Copacabana beach and a mix of spiritual and superstitious rituals, it’s not hard to see why. Here, we explore where to go, what to eat and what to wear to Rio’s extravagant and unforgettable New Year’s Eve parties.
All throughout Rio are some incredible parties in the city’s hottest nightclubs with open bars, live DJs and wall-shaking music. However, each year, it’s Copacabana beach that attracts the highest number of visitors with over two million party-goers taking over the sandy shores to watch one of the world’s biggest firework spectacles. The party officially begins around 8 p.m. with live bands that range from international DJs to beloved Brazilian legends, but the beach will start filling up from the early afternoon. Join in the countdown and prepare to cheer, dance and embrace strangers as the skies fill up with bright smoky lights from hundreds of fireworks being set off.
One of the most beautiful sights during New Year’s in Rio is looking over Copacabana beach and seeing a wave of white as nearly all two million visitors dress head to toe in white clothes. The look is striking and comes from a past superstition that white brings prosperity and peace. This fashionable custom remains a firm tradition in the Brazilian New Year’s Eve celebrations. Sometimes, colored underwear is used to represent other values: green for health, yellow for money and red for romance. Be sure to dig out your white summer clothes to get glammed up for a traditional Brazilian New Year’s Eve party.
That’s if you can get through the crowds to the sea, that is! After the fireworks are over, it is customary to head to the sea and jump seven waves while making seven wishes, a tradition that came from honoring the Goddess of the Ocean, Iemanjá. Legend has it that after jumping the seven waves and leaving the ocean, it’s important to not look back in order to avoid making Iemanjá angry. It’s a wonderful custom to take part in and the atmosphere is vibrant and euphoric, so be sure to head down to the water’s edge and jump the seven waves with hundreds of other people.
Food and eating is an important part of Brazilian social lives, so it’s not surprising that what you eat on New Year’s Eve is considered to reflect your luck and success for the following 12 months. Lentils are supposedly good for bringing luck, but turkey and crab are unlucky, according to Brazilian tradition. There’s good news for party goers — drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve is encouraged, as it will keep you active and full of energy for the year ahead (although these effects may not be felt on New Year’s day!).
Among the hustle and bustle of the a rowdy crowd, relentless samba beats and exploding fireworks, some locals will quietly retreat to the shore’s edge to leave white flowers and float candles out to the sea as an offering to Iemanjá, Goddess of the Ocean, in hope that she will grant their wishes. If the offering is brought back to shore, it’s considered a sign that the wish will not be granted, which is why you may see locals wading out and pushing mini-boats out past the waves. It is a mesmerizing act to watch, as its beauty and simplicity temporarily drowns out the noise of the surrounding celebrations.