Monday, December 31, 2012

Celebrating the New Year in Brazil

I'm sure you folks are busy with your New Year's Eve celebrations.
I am with mine.

So I hope you'll excuse me if I re-post, in this space, something that originally appeared here two years ago at this time -- on the 3rd of January, 2011.

It's still valid.

And here it is:

While most of you folks are dealing with the cold, and many are still up to your…ahh…knees in snow, 

we’re basking in the warmth of a Southern Hemisphere summer.
And here, a stone’s throw from the Tropic of Capricorn, it isn’t only our weather that’s different. Our customs are as well.

 I’d like to share a few of them with you.

On New Year’s Eve we:

Dress ourselves in white. (Brings luck.)

Eat lentils. (Also brings luck. My wife firmly believes in this one, and makes sure I comply. It is a matter of indifference to her that I am not fond of lentils.)

Suck the pulp from seven pomegranate seeds, wrap them in paper and put them in our wallets  (To ensure that, throughout the New Year, those wallets will always contain money.) Alternatively, you can use a single bay leaf.

Eat three grapes at midnight. (For wish fulfillment. You make a wish as you consume each one.)

Stand outside and fling coins into your house. (Brings cash to the household.)

Avoid eating crab. (Crabs move backward, symbolic of regression, not progression.)

Avoid eating fowl, like chicken and turkey. (Fowl have wings, which can cause your luck to fly away.)

Hold glasses of champagne in our hands and jump up and down three times. (This ensures that everything bad that ever happened to you will be left in the past. It only works, however, if you manage to do it without spilling a single drop of the bubbly. After which, you empty the entire glass over your shoulder. For obvious reasons, this is best done outside.)

Get up on chairs, or benches, and stay there as the clock strikes twelve times at midnight. Then get down, stepping first with the right foot. (This should not be attempted after consuming too much champagne.)

Enter the New Year with money in our pockets. (In the hope we’ll always have some there in the twelve months to come.)

Put banknotes in our shoes. (This is said to attract even more money.)

Only use clean handkerchiefs after midnight. (God knows why.)

Make sure that the first person we embrace to wish a Happy New Year is a member of the opposite sex. (This is supposed to bring luck in love. I’m not sure which sex you’re supposed to embrace if you’re gay. I shall have to ask one of my gay friends about that.)

Run around the house carrying an empty suitcase. (This only applies to those of us who plan to travel in the course of the coming year. Caution must be exercised not to bump into people jumping up and down with glasses in their hands, thereby causing them to spill champagne.)

Light candles and throw roses into the sea. (This is done to please Iemanjá, Queen of the Waters and mother of the Orixás. Most Brazilians are, to some degree, spiritualists, and this custom is taken very seriously.)

On the beaches of Copacabana and  Ipanema  hundreds of thousands of people make their offerings at midnight. Some of them also give The Lady perfume, money even jewelry.

Step into the ocean and jump over seven waves in succession. (To help us to overcome physical and spiritual difficulties in the year to come. ) Many family members join hands as they do this, symbolic of the family overcoming those difficulties as a unit.

Make a lot of noise. You can use whistles, drums, beat on pots and pans, whatever it takes – but it has to be exactly at midnight. After which you start shooting off your fireworks. (This, of course, harks back to the ancient peoples who did it to frighten away evil spirits.)

Brazilians are very big on fireworks on New Year’s Eve. This year (2011) there were eleven barges anchored four hundred meters off the beach at Copacabana. Each barge fired off 1,200 huge skyrockets and the pyrotechnics went on for twenty minutes. More than a million people stood on the beach and watched the show.

Sing Adeus Ano VelhoFeliz Ano Novo. It’s our equivalent of yourAuld Lang Syne

Brazil’s biggest New Year’s party takes place in Brazil’s largest city. This year (2011) as last, a huge stage was erected on São Paulo’s major thoroughfare, Avenida Paulista.
Big names from the world of Brazilian popular music performed and a huge amount of fireworks lit up the sky. The party started at eight PM, was still going on at 3:00 AM.
More than 2.5 million people attended.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Leighton – Monday


  1. Fantastic! One needs quite a planned schedule to do all of this -- in one day!

    Happy New Year!

  2. Yes, this is a great post for 2013. Cheers!

  3. And to you, too, Kathy, Pam and Eileen.

  4. My friend, I look forward to your re-posting this very same blog for many, many New Years to come!

    A word on the pomegranates. In Greece the tradition is to break one on the floor of your home for good luck. When practiced as part of an evening-long champagne drinking ritual it is particularly good luck for commercial carpet cleaners.

  5. Delightful, and a Happy, Prosperous New Year to you.

  6. Hi Leighton,

    Just heard a new Mario Silva is being released, can't wait to read it.

    Wishing everyone at Murder is Everywhere and their families a very happy and healthy 2013.


  7. Jeff, I wonder if more broken limbs are suffered each year in Greece from slipping on pomegranate pulp, or in Brazil from jumping off chairs. Happy New Year, Mate.

    And the same to you, Lil.

    Susie, How nice to hear from you. Guess what! I have a daughter moving to Chicago. So you can expect Eide and I to pop up there 'ere all too long. And, when we do, we will certainly look you up. You're right about Silva. His next outing is scheduled for the 19th of February in hard cover, ebook and audio formats. The book is entitled PERFECT HATRED and Barnes and Noble, I'm told, has done a nice buy-in. I await the trade reviews with bated breath. Hope you have a great 2013!

  8. hi, thanks for the post, wish i could be in brazil every new years celebration, because the mood there is amazing! one little thing to add maybe next time is the tradition of the ladies underwear! it's a huge superstition and the color of the new undies are important to define specific luck in the new year:
    wear (if you are female) by example:
    white for peace
    greeen_ for hope
    blue for health
    pink for love
    red for passion
    yellow for money!

    and good luck for 2013!