Language Insight is visiting warmer climes for its latest Christmas Around the World post, by learning about the festive traditions of Brazil.

The Build-Up

Although there is no official religion in Brazil, a large proportion of the population are Roman Catholic. This and the fact that Brazil is a former Portuguese colony means many of its Christmas traditions are inspired by Europe.

The centrepiece of Brazilian homes, shop windows and town centres is the presepio. This is a Nativity scene named after the straw the new-born baby Jesus lay on in the stable. A Franciscan friar is believed to have introduced the concept to Brazil in the 17th century and today they are beautiful displays that remind people of the religious meaning of the holiday.

A popular ritual during the build-up to Christmas is to play Secret Santa – or Amigo Secreto as it is known in Brazil. A group of friends will write their name on a piece of paper, and each one then picks a different name at random. Over the next few days, they will send letters signed with a pseudonym to the person they have selected that will provide clues to their identity. At the end of the game, the participants will reveal themselves to the person they picked and give them a gift.

Who is the Brazilian Santa?

The answer is – Santa Claus, or Papai Noel as he is known in Brazil. There is very little difference between him and the Father Christmas we know in the UK. He wears red, has a big beard and rides on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

However, there is one difference, which is that as Santa Claus arrives in Brazil, he changes out of his winter suit and into a silk one. This is because Christmas Day falls in the middle of the country’s summer, meaning it is incredibly hot.

Due to the widespread poverty in Brazil, some children miss out on a visit from Papai Noel. There are charities that collect presents to deliver to some of the poorest kids in the country and it is possible to donate either gifts or money.

The Feast

Because of the European influence on Christmas in Brazil, roast turkey with vegetables is the customary meal. This is eaten either after Midnight Mass – known as Missa do Galo – or the next day. While the custom is to have it after Missa do Galo, named after the rooster because it doesn’t finish until 1am, the lateness of the hour can mean it is put off until Christmas Day.

It is not uncommon to find dishes that have originated from Europe on the Christmas dinner table in Brazil. Among these are the delicious Italian panettone and German stolen.

However, while roast turkey is the traditional choice, the extreme heat can mean this is heavy going. As a result, many families will favour rice and beans served with chicken or ham, salad and dried fruit.

Once the meal is finished, there’s no snuggling in front of the fire, or playing in the snow. Indeed, many Brazilians love nothing more than hitting the beach on Christmas Day.

If you’re spending the festive season in Brazil, why not share some of your own Christmas customs below?

To learn about Christmas in other countries follow this link: