By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For those whom Christmas conjures images of snow, wool hats, rosy cheeks and fireside eggnog, they may find it hard to catch the holiday spirit amidst Brazil’s summer heat. But of course Christmas (Natal in Portuguese) is more than a weather condition, or a wardrobe, and Rio has plenty of opportunities to celebrate.
The famous floating Christmas tree in Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoa in Zona Sul (South zone) is by far one of the most popular Christmas attractions in the Cidade Maravilhosa.
Inaugurated this year on Saturday, December 4th with a live show featuring national recording artists Milton Nascimento, Simone and Ivan Lins, the Bradesco Seguros Christmas Tree is in its fifteenth year.
It will be lit up at 7:30PM every evening until January 6th, 2011 with a total of fifteen sequential light and color patterns illuminated by 105 kilometers of lighted strands, 3.3 million miniature bulbs and 2,100 strobes.
As a largely religious country with the biggest Catholic population in the world, Christmas has a strong focus on the nativity.
An interesting celebration of the birth of Jesus is the Festival de Presépios Christmas Festival. In its second year, the festival invites artists to create life-sized models of the nativity scene around the city.
There is a total of fifty nativity scene models around the city and the map on the festival website serves as a guide to those who want to visit each one.
For both regular church goers and many non-practicing Christians, the tradition of attending a Christmas service on Christmas Eve is one of the most important parts of the season.
The Union Church of Rio de Janeiro is an interdenominational church serving English-speaking Christians in Rio. They will be holding their Candlelight service with Christmas carols at 7PM on Christmas Eve at its parish on Av. Prefeito Dulcídio Cardoso 4351, in Barra da Tijuca.
For others, Christmas is about shopping, and all the major malls in Zona Sul such as Botafogo Praia Shopping and Rio Sul in Botafogo, Shopping Leblon and Barra Shopping, are suitably festive with decorations, Christmas-themed items and offers.
Christmas dinners in Brazil are similar to American and European feasts, although, thanks to the Portuguese influence, many families prepare codfish along with the turkey and ham.
For those who would rather let others sweat in the kitchen preparing Christmas dinner, the city offers some enticing options.
The Gringo Cafe is offering a Christmas dinner with roasted turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans from 8:30AM to 5PM on December 24th and 8:30AM to Midnight on December 25th. Blue Agave will also be putting on a Christmas eve dinner with special entrees like salmon and filet mignon for R$30 a plate.
Hotels like the JW Marriott, Pestana Rio Atlântica Hotel and Rio Othon Palace in Copacabana and the Hotel Marina Palace in Leblon, are putting on Christmas dinners with traditional foods as well as sushi and other delicacies.
Whether celebrated with turkey and Christmas carols or shopping and sushi, Christmas in Rio can be enjoyed by everyone. For those a long way from home and missing the family festivities, or avoiding them, rest assured there will be plenty of parties around the city as well.