You are sitting by the fire while sipping hot chocolate in comfy Christmas pajamas while watching a favorite holiday film. Stockings are stuffed and presents are wrapped, enveloped in the fragrance of a live fir tree. It is the perfect Christmas eve. Maybe you open the stocking stuffers, maybe one present, or all of them. But for many people in the US, the big celebration is tomorrow. Most of what you might picture when you think of Christmas is the exact opposite of what you would experience when spending Christmas in Brazil. If you ever experience Christmas in Brazil, you will need to keep in mind the following 5 cultural and environmental facts to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Brazilians Never Have a White Christmas
A white Christmas in Brazil would mean the coming of another Ice Age. The tropical country of Brazil is located in the Southern Hemisphere, which means that December is the start of the Brazilian Summer. The average temperatures in December range between 70 and 80 degrees. So, pack some shorts and t-shirts. If you want to avoid committing a cultural faux pas, you will also want to pack something dressier as well. Learn more about the cultural reason below.
Brazilians Dress Up for Christmas
Although a Christmas pajama party is quite fun in the American setting, do not plan on showing up in your pjs to a Brazilian Christmas celebration. You should also not plan on wearing your shorts and t-shirt. You will be sorely surprised when your sisters-in-law start putting on their makeup and doing their hair while getting out their dresses to wear to your family gathering. Definitely, not speaking from experience… Save yourself the embarrassment and know that Brazilians get dolled up for Christmas. Also, know that everything will be closed Christmas Eve, so do not plan on a quick trip to the mall to remediate your lack of cultural prowess. See why under the next cultural tidbit.
Brazilians Start Christmas December 24th.
There is no need for you to watch the clock on Christmas Eve pass 6, 7, 8, then 9 o’ clock while wondering exactly when the dinner preparations will be done. Take it from one who experienced just such a thing. When you finally cannot abate your hunger any longer and ask what time Christmas dinner will be, prepare yourself for the answer. Depending on the family you are with, it might just be midnight. Eating fruits and nuts before midnight is acceptable, but the main meal might not be until a few minutes after midnight. If you are lucky, it may be at 9 or 10. Whether your meal is at 9 or 10 or just after midnight, you will want to step outside right at midnight. See why below.
Brazilians Greet Christmas Day with a Bang
If you have a jumpy pooch or small child with you on Christmas Eve, make sure they are securely in your arms when the clock strikes midnight. While Brazilians usually reserve explosive celebration for when their soccer team scores a goal, or when there is a holiday, or actually whenever they feel like it, Christmas is one of the largest lighting of fireworks that you will see in Brazil. If you want to really sit in awe of the Brazilian Christmas Spirit or their spirit in general, spend Christmas Eve in São Paulo. With over 21,000,000 denizens, it will prove to be the most spectacular and largest informal fireworks display you have ever seen.
Brazilians do Secret Santa
If you are imagining a mountain of gifts to open Christmas morning in Brazil, you will be disappointed on two fronts. One, you missed the presents the night before. Two, you are likely only getting one present. A good number of Brazilians usually do something called Amigo Secreto (Secret Friend) which would be the American equivalent of Secret Santa. And yes, Santa does exist in the Brazilian tradition, but his name is Papai Noel (Father Noel/Christmas). Each person in the group is given someone else to shop for, and they exchange the gifts on Christmas Eve next to their likely artificial Christmas tree. Whether families do Secret Santa or not, you are likely to receive only one present.
Brazilians Deck the Halls Differently
The halls are decked differently in Brazil. Contrary to the widespread American tradition of live trees, Brazilians use artificial trees. Fir trees are native to the Northern Hemisphere in North America, Europe, and Asia. It is with reason that you will not see live trees in the homes of Brazilians. The artificial trees will be decked out with red, green, gold, and white which are the Brazil’s Christmas colors. You will not see lights on people’s houses since that would shoot the electric bill out the roof. You could go to a large city’s center to find a light display and giant artificial Christmas trees. Other than that, you will probably see a few ornaments on a scentless tree.
Christmas may be a little hotter, a little louder, a little less extravagant, but this is the Brazilian way to celebrate Christmas. If you plan on being in Brazil during the holidays at some point, keep in mind these 5 things to know about Christmas in Brazil to avoid culture shock.