Brazilian Holiday phrases idioms

6 Delightful Brazilian Portuguese Holiday Phrases Idioms, and Jokes

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Brazilians love to celebrate, and never more so than during the holiday season. 

With the warm summer weather and the beginning of the summer holidays for school children, it’s an extra-special time of year for Brazilians. That means lots of parties and holiday traditions that are quite different from other countries. 

In this article, we’ll give you some of the most common sayings, idioms, and jokes used around the holidays. These will help you navigate the holiday season in Portuguese—and also give you a peek into the sense of humor of Brazilians!

Essential Brazilian Portuguese Holiday Phrases

Brazilian Portuguese holiday phrases  christmas vocabulary

1. Feliz Natal! / Feliz Ano Novo!

Literally: “Happy Christmas!” / “Happy New Year!”

These are staple phrases of the season. 

Brazil has historically been a very Catholic country since it was colonized by Portugal and had heavy cultural influence from other Catholic European countries like Spain and Italy. That’s why the great majority of Brazilians celebrate Christmas as well as other Christian holidays. Brazilians also have a very large celebration on New Year’s Eve, with a number of unique traditions.

If you only learn one Portuguese phrase before your Brazilian holiday celebration, make this it—It should be enough to win you some friends.

How to use it in a sentence:

Oi querida! Feliz Natal! (“Hello my dear! Happy Christmas!”)

2. Então é Natal, e o que você fez?

Literally: “So it is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Every year during the holidays, Brazilians love to ask friends and family: “So it’s Christmas, and what have you done?” It’s a way to ask about the past year and to learn about plans for the upcoming one.

But it’s also asked as a joke because it’s a reference to the song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, originally composed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with a famous Brazilian Portuguese cover sung by Simone. This song is played everywhere in Brazil during the Christmas season—it’s in all the stores and shopping malls. 

How to use it in a sentence:

A: Nossa, já estamos em dezembro. B: Então é Natal, e o que você fez?

A: “Wow, it’s December already.” B: “So it’s Christmas, and what have you done?”

3. É pavê ou pacumê?

Literally: “Is it to see or to eat?”

This expression is perhaps Brazil’s favorite dad joke. 

Brazilian Dad joke holiday

The joke always happens like this. Everyone is sitting around the table at the Christmas meal. Someone will ask what is for dessert. The answer will be “pavé!”. And then an uncle (it’s always an uncle) will ask, “É pavê ou pacumê?” 

Pavé is a Brazilian tiramisu-like dessert that gained its name from the French of the word “pavage”, which means pavement. (Don’t ask me why it was named after pavement—it tastes great, I promise). 

The joke comes from a play on words. “Pavé” sounds identical to saying “pra ver” quickly. “Pra ver” means “to see”. “Pacumê” is a similar contracted, informal version of “pra comer” or “to eat”. Together “É pavê ou pacumê?” means “Is it to see or to eat?” 

If you attend a Brazilian holiday party and they serve pavé, you will hear this joke. The proper response is to roll your eyes along with everyone else while the uncle chuckles to himself. 

How to use it in a sentence:

A: O que temos para sobremesa? B: Pavê! A: É pavê ou pacumê?

A: “What do we have for dessert?” B: “Pavé!” A: “Is it to see or to eat?”

4. Jingle bell, jingle bell, acabou o papel.

Literally: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, the toilet paper ran out”

This is another play on words, this time with the lyrics of “Jingle Bells”. It’s a favorite silly alternative set of lyrics for the popular Christmas song, along the lines of those that English-speaking children create (think, “Jingle bells, Batman smells”). 

In this version, Brazilian children sing the familiar “Jingle bells” in English, but then switch into Portuguese with an expression that is widely used by children when they are beginning to learn to use the bathroom: “Acabou o papel”, which means “the toilet paper ran out”. 

If you visit anyone with kids in Brazil, you’re bound to hear them sing this around the holidays. Brazilian children—perhaps like all children—enjoy their potty humor. 

The song goes like this:

Jingle bell, jingle bell, acabou o papel. Não faz mal, não faz mal, limpa com o jornal. 

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, the toilet paper ran out. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, clean yourself with newspaper.”

5. Na vida tudo passa, o ano passa, e a uva passa.

Essential Brazilian Portuguese Holiday vocabulary

Literally: “In life everything passes, the year passes, and the grape passes.” 

This is another play on words. To understand it, you have to first know that uva means “grape” and uva passa means “raisin” as well as “the grape passes”. 

This play on words, commonly heard around the New Year, starts by acknowledging that everything eventually comes to an end, including the year, and even grapes. “In life, everything passes: the year passes, and the grape passes [and the raisin].”

How to use it in a sentence:

A: Dezembro está tão difícil no trabalho. Espero que os dias passam logo. B: Na vida tudo passa, o ano passa, e a uva passa.

A: “December is so difficult at work. I hope the days go by quickly.” B: “In life everything passes, the year passes, and the grape passes.”

6. É só uma lembrancinha.

Literally: “It’s just a little souvenir”

You’ll commonly hear this at Christmas parties with family and friends when someone is giving a gift. It’s a way to say, “it’s just something small”; it’s a suggestion that the gift isn’t large or expensive, but that it’s being given with thought and affection. 

Except that you’ll also hear it used even when the gift is large and expensive as a way to play down the gift and to communicate modesty. 

How to use it in a sentence:

A: Uau, um dia no spa no valor de $100, adorei!  B: É só uma lembrancinha.

A: “Wow, a $100 gift certificate to the day-spa, I love it!” B: “It’s just a little souvenir.”

Bonus Christmas Vocabulary in Portuguese

And finally, here are a few more generic vocabulary words to help you navigate the Holidays in Portuguese and impress your Brazilian friends and family:

A arvore de Natal = “The Christmas tree”

O Papai Noel = “Father Christmas” or Santa Clause.

Os presentes = “The presents”

A guirlanda = “The wreath”

O pisca pisca = “The Christmas lights”

O sino = “The bell”

O boneco de neve = “The snowman”

A meia = “The stocking”

A vela = “The candle”

O Anjo = “The angel”

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