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6 Tradições de Natal – Christmas traditions in Brazil Posted by on Dec 21, 2015 in Culture, Entertainment, Food, Learning, Vocabulary

It is Christmas week, everyone!
Since Brasil is predominantly a Catholic country, Christmas is, for most people, connected to religion. However, even for people who are not religious, the families still get together, exchange presents and have a meal. Some Brazilian traditions are the same as other countries and some are different. Let’s check them out:

Árvore de Natal da Lagoa, RJ - Photo by Juliana Fernandes

Árvore de Natal da Lagoa, RJ – Photo by Juliana Fernandes


1. A decoração (the decoration): Christmas tree, lights, decorations: they are also part of the tradição brasileira (Brazilian tradition). A funny aspect is that some people actually make neve falsa (fake snow)! Even though it is hot in Brasil and that it is summer this time of the year the south hemisphere, part of the decoration includes neve falsa due to the fact that Christmas was brought to Brasil by European colonizers.

2. Presépio: the scene of when Jesus is born – surrounded by Maria (Mary), José (Joseph), os três reis magos (the three wise man) and some animais de fazenda (farm animals) – this scene is also part of the decoration. People buy the small statues and put them together building the scene on a coffee table or close to the Christmas tree.

3. Papai noel: Santa Claus. Papai Noel is the same in Brazilian culture as he is in most cultures, he brings presents to crianças (children) who have been good throughout the year. Sometimes people question why Papai Noel wear those clothes in Brazil, since it would be too hot for him to be confortável (comfortable). Again this has to do with the fact that the Papai Noel is originally from cultures where it is frio (cold) this time of the year.

4. Amigo oculto. Everywhere at this time of the year groups of amigos (friends), colegas de trabalho (workmates) as well as famílias (families) have an amigo oculto, which would be much like a secret santa. There are many different variations and one of the most common is the amigo oculto ladão (thieve secret santa).
How it works: each person buys a present, everyone gets together for a party (dinner parties are more common) and people choose a number from a hat, if you get number one you are the first one to choose a present from the table and so on. The second person can either get a present from the table or steal the present from the first person and leave them to choose another one from the table. The third person can steal the first or second’s person presents or get something from the table. This keeps happening until all the presents have been opened. Being the last to choose is best since you get to steal any present you wish.

5. A data (the date): in most countries people have a big meal on the 25th, in Brasil, however, most famílias get together and have a late meal on the 24th (at around 9 or 10pm) and open the presents at meia noite (midnight). On the 25th families have a almoço (lunch), much like the jantar (dinner) or the 24th, but with a different or more distant part of the family or even with amigos (friends) or their partner’s family.

6. Comidas tradicionais (traditional food):
• Peru assado: turkey
• Chester: it is a type of poultry, a mixture of diffents tipes of chicken. Its chest is usually bigger than of a normal chicken and it is a cheaper alternative to turkey. When the family is big people tend to make both turkey and chester.
• Leitão assado: pork in the over. There is a smaller type of pig that people buy and cook them in full in the oven for 2 to 3 hours.
• Lombo de porco: pork loin in the oven.
• Arroz: rice – it always accompany any of the main dishes mentioned above.
• Salpicão – it is a type of cold salad with shredded chicken breast, mayonnaise and other ingredients depending on personal taste, such as sweet corn, peas, green apple, carrots, ham, sultanas, string beens, olives, green or red peppers, and even yogurt. Here is a recipe for a traditional salpicão:

• Nozes e castanhas: these are two different types of nuts.
• Rabanada: a sweet, fried pastry made with condensed milk and ginger.

Feliz Natal, pessoal!
Happy Christmas everyone!

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