Though known for its deeply Catholic roots, the nation of Brazil is just as famous for its ability to throw a massive party. If you’re in the mood to celebrate samba-style, there are several opportunities throughout the year to take a trip to South America and revel in one of the many events and festivals. With so many options, the only question you have to ask is, “When do I want to go?”
If you’re looking to ring in the New Year, there are two choices: Rio de Janeiro or Salvador. The famous Copacabana beach in Rio will hold as many as two million visitors for concerts and performances, as well as a massive fireworks display at midnight. In Salvador, it’s a tradition for the followers African Candomblé, a religion that originated amongst the slaves in the area, to dress in white and release tiny boats carrying flowers, candles, and jewelry to their sea goddess. This is part of a four-day-long festival for Bom Jesus dos Navegantes (“Good Jesus of Boatmen”), which ends with sailors navigating through the nearby bay behind Gratidão do Povo, a boat literally signifying the “Gratitude of the People,” in hopes for a prosperous New Year.
The most famous event of all is Carnival, “the party to end all parties” before Ash Wednesday. Though life all over the country stops for four days to accommodate the party, Rio has the biggest festival. Every year, TV stations around the world show images from the Parade of Schools, the infamous procession of massive floats covered in scantily-clad dancers shaking to the samba rhythms. Locals and tourists alike spend days on Copacabana or Ipanema beach recovering from the previous night’s festivities, resting up for another round.
Later in the year, Festa Juninia marks the Feast of St. John every June 24th. The festival has the air of an American county fair, with folklore-centered games and square dances going on before a major fireworks display. The scene rings with the sound of local folk music while the customary peanut cake and passion fruit juice are eaten by the truckload, all while bonfires and mock marriages go on around them.
Around the same time, the city of Manaus hosts an annual cultural festival to celebrate the native Amazon population and the area’s Middle Eastern heritage. The highlight of these events in June and July is Boi Bumba, a Carnival-like collection on the island of Paratins in which performers do traditional dances from the jungles and northeastern Africa to the rhythm of the marijuana and batucada.
Near the end of the year, Blumenau, a city near the southeastern coast holds its own Oktoberfest. The descendants of German immigrants put together a three-week tribute to the massive festival in Munich. Much like other Brazilian events, there are parades and dancing to highlight the European culture that inspired it. And, of course, there’s a lot of beer to drink and bratwurst to eat.
The amazing thing is, this is only a handful of the largest events, so local festivals are not even mentioned. If you’re looking to whoop it up, head down to Brazil. No matter the season, they’ll always find a reason.