By Anna Kaiser and Levi Michaels, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The long Easter (or Páscoa in Portuguese) weekend, known as “Semana Santa” is a unique time in Rio and all of Brazil whether one is seeking a spiritual celebration or just enjoyable festivities. In addition to religious celebrations and Easter traditions, Semana Santa is also a popular time for vacations and non-religious events.
While Good Friday (Sexta Paixão) is a national holiday, many businesses and schools also give days off on Thursday and Monday, so events throughout the Cidade Maravilhosa and all of Brazil start Thursday and will last through the weekend.
In Rio on Thursday, March 28th the Gringo Café is holding a special Easter edition of their new weekly “Gringo Lounge”, complete with a DJ and new menu items like red velvet cake, chocolate peanut butter cups and flourless chocolate cake. They will also be serving their holiday special Eggs Benedict all weekend.
Religious Easter services will be held throughout the city in the morning on Easter Sunday, as well as warm-up events. The Christ Church of Rio de Janeiro in Botafogo, an English speaking, Anglican Church will host a Holy Communion with a shared meal on Thursday at 7:30 PM, as well as a bilingual English/Portuguese service at 3PM on Good Friday. On Sunday, the Christ Church begins communion at 8AM, followed by a Family Communion Service at 10:30 AM.
For another English speaking service, the Union Church, located in Barra da Tijuca, is throwing a pancake breakfast from 8:30-9:30 AM followed by a Celebration Service at 10AM and an Easter Egg hunt for children.
An alternative non-religious event being held in Rio this weekend is the Favela em Dança festival, a dance festival held at the NGO Solar Meninos de Luz, located in the Pavão-Pavãozinho community on the hills above Ipanema and Copacabana. The festival will combine a range of dance styles into a series of workshops, exhibitions and competitions.
“People in the favelas have much to say, and it is from them that we get the creativity of new movements and attitudes, both inside and outside of the dance community,” said 18-year-old Ronaldo Marinho, resident of the Cantagalo favela and promoter for the festival. Among the many styles shown will be hip-hop, krump, break dance, house, popping, dancehall, passinho and funk. Ticket holders can participate in workshops for each style.
Exhibitions will be held on Saturday, March 30th starting at 7:30 PM, entrance is free. To view ticket prices for workshops and other info, check out the Favela em Dança website.
Celebrations outside of Rio include the famed Holy Week in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais. Every year during Semana Santa, this otherwise sleepy yet picturesque colonial town transforms into a kaleidoscope of religious imagery.
Ornate carpets made of natural materials stretch along the streets for miles, marking the path of a holy procession that walks from one church to another. At the same time actors portray scenes from the Bible in the streets. Bus tickets from Rio de Janeiro are available starting at R$64.
Another non-holiday event happening outside of Rio during the Easter weekend is the music festival sensation Lollapalooza in São Paulo. The three-day festival at the SP Jockey Club will feature some of the biggest names in music, including headliners like Pearl Jam, The Killers, and Deadmau5, as well as Brazilian favorites like Criólo and Graforréia Xilarmônica.
“Lollapalooza is the only thing we have that can be compared to other international festivals like Coachella,” said 23-year-old Renata Palhares of Gávea. “If you compare it to Rock in Rio and Planeta Terra, Lollapalooza is the best for me because they come with bands that are really popular in Brazil right now, like The Black Keys and Two Door Cinema Club.”
Tickets are available on the Lollapalooza website, prices for non-students starting at R$350 per day and R$990 for a weekend pass.