By Carol Mendes | Translation: Ann Fain
Brazil is generally known by tourists for its beautiful paradise beaches, beauty of its women and contagious excitement of carnival. But the country has so much more to offer. In this article we are going to talk about “Popular Brazil”, or more specifically, the popular festivals of Brazil.
Brazilians are festive people and throughout the year they have innumerable popular and folkloric festivals. If these events were presented to the whole world, they would attract many tourists. In order to make its readers feel more a part of the culture, Soul Brasil is going to talk about some of these events in this edition.
Before carnival and more precisely from Christmas Eve until January 6 (the date that the Three Kings visited Jesus), the majority of the cities on the interior of the country are consumed with the spectacle of cultural beauty and religion known as Folia de Reis or “Three King’s Day.” Homes in the regions of São Paulo, Espírito Santos, Minas Gerais, Bahia, among others, open their doors to receive a visit from a “reisado”, which is a popular folkloric dance of Portuguese origin.
This is a group of people comprised of instrumentalists, singers, dancers, clowns and other folkloric figures who chant verses about the Three Kings’ visit to Christ and various other themes. In contrast to the tradition of the King’s, the purpose of the Folia is not to bring gifts, but to receive them. The host must offer some food to the group, with a genuine kindhearted purpose, to thank them for their chanting.
One of the most expressive legacies given to the Brazilian people is not from the Portuguese, the colonizers of Brazil, but from the first Azoreans who arrived in Brazil in 1748, and can be observed in the strong religious culture of the Festa do Divino or “Festival of the Holy Ghost”, which is commemorated in practically every song in the country. With a sung mass, processions, caring actions to collect money and folkloric manifestations particular to each region, the Festival of the Holy Ghost lasts approximately 10 days, always ending it’s festivities on the Sunday of Pentecost (seven weeks after Passover, the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles.)
Another Portuguese inheritance we have is the Círio de Nazaré or “Wax Candle of Nazaré”, famous for being the biggest procession in the world. The meeting of more than 2 million faithful takes place in the city of Belém in Pará, on the second Sunday of October. Musical presentations, dances, lighting of wax votive candles, and making promises are only some characteristics of this event. The great attraction of the festival that gives origin to its name is the lighting of the wax candle, an immense candle that is lit during the festival of the church. The wax candle pays homage to a Portuguese saint that saved two lives: that of a Portuguese nobleman who was about to fall from his horse, and of a hunter in the Amazonian Forest.
Religious Festivities in Brazil do not only happen in the churches. During the month of June homage is paid to three saints: Saint Anthony (also known as the marriage saint), Saint John, and Saint Peter. It is held in a special place and commemorated with colorful flags, fireworks that illuminate the sky, typical foods made of corn and coconut and livened up by the sound of the zabumba (drum), a triangle and concertina that compose the rhythm of forró (style of music found in northern Brazil). The festivities is commemorated in all Northeast region, but not much intense than Campina Grande in the state of Paraiba and Caruaru in the state of Pernambuco.
In Caruaru – “The Capital of Forro”, you can take time to enjoy “Auto of Moura” (considered by UNESCO the biggest center of figurative arts in the Americas), Park 18 of May (where the famous Fair of Caruaru is help – the largest outdoor fair in the world), Patio of Luiz Gonzaga Events (Gonzaga is a famous Forró artist and they have Forró events at night), and “Drilhas” (musical groups) that took to the streets of Caruaru during the time of Saint John (the Forró transmits through the innumerable electric trios that command the party). For the foreigner, it is like visualizing Carnival in Salvador/Bahia, but in Caruaru it is the rhythm of the Forró.
But we don’t only have religious parties in Brazil – after all, the natural wealth and our rich folklore also must be celebrated. More prominent in the months of June and July, but without exact dates and times, the states in the Northern Region and in Maranhão (Northeast) celebrate a tradition that has existed since the eighteenth century: Festa do Boi Bumba or the Party of the Bumba – My Ox. The folkloric concept is a popular opera, where groups of people present fantasies, sing and dance, in order to resurrect the social and economic relations of the colonial period, mainly marked by slavery and growth of cattle.
Speaking of cattle, there is one festival in the North of the country, in the Amazon, that celebrates the ox and has been taking place since the end of June 1965. The Folkloric Festival of Parintins that paints the city in two colors: red, representing the defensive ox and blue, representing the whimsical ox.
The festival is an open-air presentation that takes place in the “Bumbódromo”, a stadium replicating the head of ox. During three nights approximately 35 thousand spectators attend a spectacle that portrays the “dispute” between the two oxen with much thematic wealth and beauty exploring regional legends, and aboriginal rituals and customs, which are aided by extras, allegories and playacting.
Continuing on the Brazilian agricultural side, the Festa de Peão Boiadeiro or “Party of Laborer Ox-Driver”, has taken place in Barretos, in the state of São Paulo, since 1956. The biggest rodeo on the planet features the laborers who participate in bull riding competitions, a gastronomic fair and shows and expositions of famous Brazilian artists.
We cannot forget to talk about one of most famous drinks manufactured in Brazil and a “particular brand” of the country: the “cachaça”. Paraty, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, hosts the Festival of Cachaça that celebrates the liquor manufactured in the city since colonial times. The city transforms into a type of “Expo of Cachaça”, where the import and exporting makers of the drink make gifts and where the people who appreciate the drink have the chance to try various varieties and also enjoy the rich regional cuisine.
To show that Brazil is a country free of preconceptions, the Gay Pride Parade has taken place in the city of São Paulo since 1997. It is cheeky parade with the participation of the “GLS” community (gays, lesbians and sympathetic) and the general public. Functioning as a thematic manifestation of politics, the movement brings visibility to the rights of the lesbians, gays, bi and/or transsexuals.
The parade became a thundering success and today it is considered the largest Gay Pride Parades in the world. It also brings millions of dollars into the city, because of the increasing number of foreign tourists who participate in the parade. The tremendous success of Gay Pride Parade of Sao Paulo, made other cities in Brazil such as Recife and Rio de Janeiro, years later, implement the same party & parade idea in favor for sexual diversity.
To celebrate the arrival of the New Year, cities as Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Florianópolis, Forlaleza and Recife prepare spectacles of fireworks, animation and a lot of positive energy. The tradition is to wear all white and go barefooted down to the seaside carrying white flowers. At midnight everyone throws the white flowers into the ocean to celebrate the start of a new year. These events are open party to the public, free of preconceptions and beliefs, and filled with fabulous music, much fellowship, friendship and good thoughts for the year. Without a doubt this is one of the most popular parties of Brazil!
No matter what the time of year, Brazil will always have a festive event occurring and its arms open to welcome the tourists who want to enjoy and learn about the culture and folklore of the tropical country