Presepios, or nativity scenes, are a very popular Christmas decoration in Brazil, and they decorate churches, houses, and storefronts around the nation. Christmas Trees are also commonplace, decorated as they are in the European tradition with festive colored lights, garland, and baubles. Many major cities have a huge Christmas Tree decorated with electric lights.
In Brazil, employees receive a 13th salary at the end of the year, or double their salary in December, to help boost the economy around Christmastime.
As the majority of the population is Catholic, many Brazilians attend a midnight mass on Christmas Eve called the Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the Rooster, named so because it may last all night, until the rooster crows in the early morning. At midnight, the nation celebrates with a massive show of fireworks.
It’s also tradition to enjoy a big family meal on Christmas Eve, served around 10 PM. The meal is comprised of turkey, ham, salads, and fresh fruits, served with rice cooked with raisins and a spoonful of farofa, or seasoned manioc flour. Because Brazil has been host to many European immigrants over the course of its history, Brazilian Christmas food is influenced by many different cultures, such as those of Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Germany. Popular desserts include the German pudding stollen, and the Italian panettone bread. At midnight, they toast, wishing each other a happy Christmas, and exchange presents.
Amigo Oculto, or Secret Santa, is a popular means of gift-giving among friends and family. Each participant is responsible for anonymously giving another a gift. When it’s time to open the presents, the gift-givers are revealed to the recipients. Papai Noel, or Santa Claus, brings presents to the children. Despite Christmas falling in the Brazilian summer, he still appears in his thick red and white robes. Because Christmas is so warm, many families spend the day at the beach.
Epiphany, the celebration of the journey of the magi to see the baby Jesus on January 6th, is also widely celebrated in Brazil.