A Brazilian New Year’s Eve: Fun Traditions & Superstitions

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A Brazilian New Year’s Eve: Fun Traditions & Superstitions

Have you ever heard the Portuguese expression Ano novo, vida nova? It means “New year, new life!” Brazilian Reveillon (New Year’s Eve) is arguably one of the best in the world. Not only do they have the world’s biggest fireworks show in Rio de Janeiro, but it also happens to be the middle of summer (perks of living in the Southern Hemisphere) so you can spend a sunny week basking in the gorgeous waters of the Brazilian coastline.

You’ll notice that Brazilians are extremely superstitious when it comes to New Year’s Eve traditions. It’s hard to miss the millions of people dressed in white dotting the Copacabana beach for the world-class fireworks display, then jumping into the ocean waves when the clock strikes midnight.

If you’re traveling to Brazil this holiday season, make sure to learn these super useful Brazilian Portuguese slang expressions, you won’t find them in a textbook, but you’ll hear them everywhere in Brazil!

The Six Most Famous Brazilian New Year’s Eve Traditions:

1. Jump Through 7 Waves When the Clock Strikes Midnight

If you are celebrating New Year’s Eve at the beach along with millions of other Brazilians, jump into the ocean at midnight and jump into 7 ondas (waves) for good luck, but only if you’re facing the waves head-on! For every wave, you can make one wish.

The legend supposedly comes from Umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian religion that is a mix of African, Roman Catholic, Spiritist, and indigenous beliefs. The number 7 is extremely sacred in Umbanda and linked to the Water Goddess Lemanjá who will give you the strength to overcome difficulties in the upcoming year.

Don’t worry, jump on in, the water’s warm!

2. Wear White on New Year’s Eve

It is quite a sight to see two million people dressed all in white side by side on Copacabana beach. It is impossible to miss the memo!

The all-white clothing tradition also comes from African religions as an homage to the god Oxalá. It was then adopted by Roman Catholics and Evangelists alike.

Make sure to pack a white outfit if you’re heading to Brazil!

3. Wear Multi-Colored Underwear for a New Year’s Wish

In Brazil, you must wear colored underwear on New Year’s (yes, under your white clothing, and yes, you will be jumping in the water!). Make sure to choose the color carefully, because they all have different meanings.

Key to Underwear Colors and their Meaning in Brazil:

  • Branco (white) = paz e harmonia (peace and harmony)
  • Aazul (blue) = tranquilidade e amizade (tranquility and friendship)
  • Amarelo (yellow) = dinheiroesorte (money and luck)
  • Rosa (pink) = amor (love)
  • Vermelho (red) = paixão (passion)
  • Laranja (orange) = sucessoprofissional (professional success)
  • Verde (green) = saúde (health)
  • Roxo (purple) = inspiração (inspiration)

4. The Food You Eat Determines Your New Year

The menu on New Year’s even depends on the family in Brazil. However, most families eat lentilhas (lentils) on New Year’s Eve in Brazil to bring good luck and romãs (pomegranates) to bring wealth. Some really superstitious people might tell you not to eat aves (poultry) because these animals walk backward, representing a regression in life.

5. Get Lucky with a Bay Leaf

The folha de louro (bay leaf), also known as the Priest’s leaf, is a very spiritual token and is said to sharpen one’s intuition. During New Year’s celebrations, many Brazilians keep one in their pockets for extra good luck.

6. Start the New Year on an Elevated Surface

To start the New Year off on a good note, make sure to count down to midnight from an elevated surface. Stand on a sturdy chair, climb up on a table, or get on your husband’s shoulders until midnight, and step down on the right foot – literally!

Start Off Your New Year on the Right Foot

If you’re heading to Brazil or just throwing a Brazilian New Year’s party, see how many of these fun Brazilian traditions you can incorporate into your New Year’s Eve celebration this year!

Have a New Year’s Resolution to Learn a New Language?

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Portuguese is the 5th most spoken language in the world and unleashes a whole new world of possibilities. Check out how Pimsleur can help you reach your language goals this upcoming year!

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