Brazilians’ fame for merrymaking is not an exaggeration. Although Carnaval is the most spectacular example, the year is filled with fantastic events, many of which mingle centuries-old religious traditions with celebrations that are distinctly profane.
Fireworks, cheap champagne, and revelers clad in white wade into the sea with flowers for the Afro-Brazilian sea goddess, Iemanjá. The biggest bash is in Rio (January 1).
Festa do Bonfim
Five days of throbbing music and unbridled hedonism. The biggest and most spectacular festivities are in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife, and Olinda, but many other cities, towns, and villages join in the fun (February–March).
A haunting re-creation of a medieval battle between Christians and Moors is sumptuously dramatized in the colonial town of Pirenópolis in Goiás (May).
In the northeastern Sertão, June is devoted to bonfires, forró dancing, drinking fruit liqueurs, and eating delicacies made from corn in celebration of Santo Antônio, São João, and São Pedro. One of the biggest events is the Festa de São João in Caruru, Pernambuco (mid–late June).
In São Luís, Maranhão, splendid costumes, pounding drums, and whirling dancers characterize this popular festa, which combines African, Indian, and Portuguese influences to re-create the story of a strict master, a wily slave, and a prize bull (end of June).
Círio de Nazaré
The highlight of the Amazon’s most important religious festival is the pageantry that accompanies the procession of Pará’s patron saint, Nossa Senhora de Nazaré, through the streets of Belém (second weekend of October).
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition