Brazil is one of South America’s most vibrant countries and festivals are an integral part of the culture. From the electric Rio Carnival to dazzling New Year’s Eve celebrations, there’s always something exciting happening in this tropical paradise. Whether you’re a cultural enthusiast seeking to uncover the country's rich history or a partygoer looking to shimmy to the sounds of samba, here’s your guide to some of the best festivals in Brazil.
1. Rio Carnival
Colourful, raucous and hedonistic, there’s a reason Carnival is one of the best-known parties in the world. Parades of elaborate floats and bejewelled dancers in barely-there costumes dancing to samba may be the main event, but the revelry begins a whole month before. Each February in the lead-up to Lent, the caipirinhas are free-flowing as clubs hold glitzy parties and street parties (also known as blocos) take over the streets. Each blocos has its own theme with some of the most popular being Banda de Ipanema, Sargento Pimenta (Seargent Pepper) and Afroreggae. While Rio is undoubtedly the most famous Carnival party, there are huge celebrations all over Brazil from Bahia to Sao Paolo.
2. Parintins Folklore Festival
Parintins Folklore Festival is the second-largest festival in Brazil after Carnival. Held in the municipality of Parintins in Amazonas, this annual spectacle commemorates the local legend of Boi-Bumba: an ox who was magically resurrected after being slaughtered to satisfy a pregnant woman's craving for beef tongue. Two teams reenact the myth and attempt to outdo each other using flamboyant song and dance routines, colourful costumes and giant floats.
3. Festa Junina
This nationwide festival takes place each June to celebrate saint John the Baptist and rural life. Celebrations take place all over Brazil, but they're bigger and more spirited in the countryside. People flock to rural fairs wearing straw hats and plaid shirts to feast on corn and sweet treats, play games, listen to forró (a music genre from northeast Brazil) and dance the quadrilha (similar to a square dance).
4. New Year in Rio
Brazilians know how to party, so it comes as no surprise that they go big on New Year's Eve. Join two million revellers decked in white at Rio's famous Copacabana Beach for a unique New Year’s celebration (wearing white is symbolic of peace and good health). Before the concerts and massive fireworks display begin, witness Candomble worshippers (an Afro-Brazilian religion) push boats filled with flowers and other offerings into the sea in exchange for safe sailing in the upcoming year.
You might be surprised to learn that the city of Blumenau in the province of Santa Catarina is the world's second-largest Oktoberfest (after Munich). Why, you ask? Well, a large surge of Germans emigrated to southern Brazil in the 19th century, and there are lots of Germanic influences in the architecture, food, music and cultural traditions throughout the state. Expect all the typical Oktoberfest shenanigans – locals donning traditional folk costumes, tasty German food and, of course, beer. Saúde!
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