Between religious and cultural celebrations, several typical festivals in Brazil are recognised worldwide and attract thousands of tourists every year
Brazil is a country well known for its cultural diversity. Due to the great territorial extent and influence of immigrants on the country, a diverse patchwork of dialects, religions, beliefs, folklore and festivals have developed across the nation. These uniquely Brazilian festivals attract many tourists and are great opportunities to experience the culture in Brazil. Here are some of the most famous celebrations:
1.Festa de Iemanjá
The Festa de Iemanjá is one of the key religious festivals that that make up the Afro-Brazilian calendar. In this celebration, the religions of Candomblé and Umbanda honour the African deity and goddess of the sea, Iemanjá. This celebration occurs on more than one date due to the difference of syncretism between the faiths; but the official date is February 2nd, the day of Our Lady of the Navigators. The festivities take place across practically all the Brazilian coast, but it is in Salvador where the date stands out.
The Rio Vermelho neighbourhood in Salvador is the scene where the festival takes place, which is considered to be the largest religious celebration of Candomblé throughout Bahia. Participants in this celebration are visitors from the terreiros (places where the religious acts happen), fishermen and the population itself, in a tribute to Iemanjá that involves all kinds of offerings, such as flowers, perfumes and jewellery amongst others. On that occasion, requests, thanks and honours are made.
The Brazilian Carnival is one of the best-known festivities in the country. It occurs between the months of February and March, starting on Friday and extending until the Carnival Tuesday, which precedes Ash Wednesday. During this period, the famous parades of the samba schools take place. In these parades, different schools present floats, fantasy and sambas-entrants and are judged according to different criteria. The parade of Rio’s schools is the most famous of all and attracts thousands of tourists to Sapucaí every year.
In addition to the parades of samba schools, popular in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Carnival is also celebrated in other ways. One of them is the Bloquinhos de Carnaval, moving street parties following a live band. In these Bloquinhos, the traditional Marchinhas de Carnaval are played, as well as musical genres such as pop and funk, which are very popular among young audiences in general. Some Bloquinhos still count on the presence of famous singers like Claudia Leite, Ivete Sangalo and Annita.
Another typical celebration of carnival occurs in Olinda, in the state of Pernambuco, with the parade of the Bonecos de Olinda. It is a meeting where the famous giant dolls parade through the streets of the city and are welcomed by both the population and tourists. Initially, the dolls portrayed saints of the Church, but with the passing of time, famous personalities began to be portrayed, like Jimi Hendrix, Ivete Sangalo and Roberto Carlos.
Also known as Festa de São João and Quermesse, this commemoration was initially linked to the Catholic Church but later popularised and today is held in various contexts such as schools, nursing homes and groups of friends.
This typical feast occurs throughout the month of June across most of Brazil, and there are even some parties that last until July. It is the second largest celebration of the country, being behind only Carnival.
Several striking features make up the Festa Junina, among them the Quadrilha, a danced staging of what a marriage ceremony in the rural environment would be like. Other characteristics include the presence of typical foods and beverages, such as Quentão, Vinho Quente and products made from corn such as cakes, pamonha and cural. In addition, there are traditional songs that refer to this party, and the presence of a fire in almost every celebration.
The largest Festa Junina of Brazil occurs in Caruaru, in the state of Pernambuco. Known as São João do Caruaru, this festival is considered by Guinness World Records to be the largest outdoor regional festival in the world.
With more than 20 years of history, the Pride Parade of São Paulo is the largest in the country and one of the largest in the world. Bringing together members of the community and supporters of the LGBT cause, the parade supports the fight against LGBT-phobia and counts on the presence of great artists who support the movement and have widespread popularity, along with counting on sponsorship from national and international companies.
The parade takes place in the month of June, known as LGBT pride month. Other cities in Brazil also have parades to honour the struggle for equality, but none is as large as that in São Paulo.
5.Bumba Meu Boi
This is a typical Brazilian festival that dates back to back to ancient folklore in the country. There are several versions of the story, but the most common is that of a slave who kills his boss’ favourite ox to satisfy his pregnant wife, who desires to eat ox-tongue. To avoid the boss’ wrath, the slave must resuscitate the ox with the help of healers.
The commemoration is also known as Boi-Bumbá, and occurs during the months of June and July, having great prominence and popularity in the north and northeast of the country. The festivities include dance, music, parades and theatrical performances, relying on the rhythm played on instruments such as guitar, triangle, zabumba and matraca.
In 2012, the Bumba Meu Boi was included by IPHAN (National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute) on a list of Cultural Heritage of Brazil, and since begun to have its own date: the National Day of Bumba Meu Boi, celebrated on June 30.
6.Festival Folclórico de Parintins
This representation is very similar to Carnival; there must be a plot, rhythm, queen of folklore, among other characteristics very similar to the components of samba schools. In fact, the production of the Festival Folclórico de Parintins is as beautiful as what is seen in the parades of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo but keeps alive the myths and legends of the Amazon rainforest.
In this Brazilian celebration, there is also the representation of Bumba Meu Boi, another typical feast of the northern region.
7.Festival da Cachaça
Initially known as the Pinga Festival, this typical Brazilian festival was created with the aim of celebrating the only industrial product in the Paraty region to date: cachaça, a distilled alcoholic beverage obtained from sugarcane. The event is centred on the main types of cachaça from the region, as well as a significant music lineup.
In addition, during the festival, there is also an intense programme of cultural and gastronomic activities, which seeks to enhance the method of production of cachaça, caiçara culture and local gastronomy. The entrance to the event is free, and it is one of the largest cachaça festivals in the country, having even received the International Creative City Label for Gastronomy, granted by UNESCO in 2017.
8.Cirio de Nazaré
Held in Belém, capital of the state of Pará, it is one of the largest and most beautiful Catholic processions in the world. With more than two centuries of existence, the celebration brings together about two million worshippers in a walk that honours Nossa Senhora de Nazaré, the mother of Jesus. In addition to the hike, boat cruises are also a part of the event.
The event takes place on the second weekend of October when pilgrims walk from the Cathedral of Bethlehem to the Sanctuary Square of Nazareth, where an image of the saint is shown for 15 days so that the public can revere it and give thanks, tributes and prayers. The worshippers march carrying objects typical of the procession, such as the berlinda, as well as flowers, posters and rosaries.
Thanks to the scale and significance of the event, the Círio de Nazaré was registered as Cultural Heritage of Intangible Nature by IPHAN (Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage) in 2004.
Among gastronomic, cultural and musical events, there are thousands of festivals in Brazil that attract tourists throughout the year and offer the opportunity to enjoy and discover different sights, flavours and sounds. In addition, thanks to the large number of people attending these festivals, each experience provides a different interaction, giving unique experiences.