By Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With Easter (known as Páscoa in Portuguese) rapidly approaching, it is time for Rio residents to start planning for this special holiday. Brazil, being a country of predominately Christians, and an estimated 125 million Catholics (64 percent of the population), makes a proper celebration that extends past just Easter Sunday, which this year falls on April 20th.
Good Friday (Sexta Paixão) is a national holiday, but many businesses and schools extend the holiday to include Thursday and the following Monday, as well. The long Easter weekend is called “Semana Santa”, and during this time, many people in Rio choose to travel to nearby destinations, such as Búzios and Saquarema.
In regards to religious services, there are several English-speaking churches in Rio. Christ Church in Botafogo, the only English speaking Anglican Church in Rio, will hold a pre-Easter communion on Thursday, April 17th. The next day, the church will have a Good Friday service at 3PM. On Easter Sunday, there will be a Family Communion service at 10:30 AM.
Union Church in Barra da Tijuca will also have a special celebration and service on Easter Sunday, with a pancake breakfast from 8:30 to 9:30 AM and a celebration service at 10AM, followed by a kids’ Easter egg hunt and other fun activities starting at 11:30 AM.
In addition to religious services, there will also be numerous parties held during Semana Santa. For foreigners and Brazilians alike, InterNations will hold an Easter-themed event at Escobar on Wednesday, April 16th at 7PM.
For homesick expatriates and travelers, the Gringo Café is also a nice place to spend the Semana Santa, with normal hours each day, including Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday. Along with festive decorations Sam Flowers, owner of the Gringo Café, shares that they have “options including Eggs Benedict, Bagels, Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s, [in addition to] cakes made to order – great to celebrate at home or give as gifts.” The cake choices are red velvet cake, carrot cake, cheesecake and strawberry shortcake.
Carioca Claudia Correia normally prefers to travel during Easter Weekend, but this year will stay in Rio: “I would like to travel, but since money is tight, [it will be] beach, beach and more beach. And nights [out].”
She adds, “But many friends [of mine] will be traveling to the Lagos region.” Weather permitting, Correia also recommends spending time in the various parks of Rio, such as Jardim Botânico and Quinta da Boa Vista.
Last year, Correia went to Tiradentes in Minas Gerais. She claims that “in Minas Gerais, the Easter holiday is religious. They make carpets with a holy trail [decorated] with flowers and [there are] processions. It’s very pretty.”
Renato Santos, from Espirito Santo state, plans to do a bit of everything this Easter holiday: travel, religious celebration and party. He will spend Semana Santa with his parents, who live in his hometown. He states, “they are Catholic and really value family coming together during this time (as much as Christmas).”
He continues, “We are used to attending religious services and normally go see a theatrical piece that portrays the life of Jesus Christ until his death. On Sunday of Semana Santa, all my family reunites for a lunch (this lunch doesn’t have any red meat, in respect of the suffering of Jesus Christ).”