By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In Rio and Brazil, Christmas is an occasion for family gatherings, festive holiday meals and a religious and cultural celebration along with billions of people around the globe. Essentially a Christian holiday, Christmas is a highlight in Brazil’s summer calendar, and is also celebrated by many non-Christians too.
Even though people traditionally spend the Christmas holiday at home, Rio can be quite eventful on December 24th and 25th. From parties to church masses, including big dinners in some of the best restaurants in Zona Sul (South Zone), there are plenty of options to be enjoyed by Cariocas and expatriates.
For most Brazilians, Christmas Eve is a bigger celebration than Christmas day itself. The tradition is to serve Christmas dinner at midnight on December 24th, when Christmas Day begins. The exchange of Christmas gifts usually happens right after the dinner. Closing the holiday is a lunch on December 25th, which usually happens late in the afternoon.
Those interested in starting the holidays with a religious ceremony should check the mass at the Christ Church, the only English speaking Anglican church, situated in Botafogo. The mass will happen at 10:45 AM, both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“Our theme has been ‘Christmas Cheers’ this year, and we have been doing an exciting series of Christmas events, like the Beer & Carols at the Lord Jim Pub and a Carol Service in Botafogo, with a special choir singing ancient and some more modern carols. What’s more, our church is increasingly international. Our recent New Members Day had more Africans than Europeans,” says the British Mark Simpson, chaplain of the Christ Church.
At the Union Church, a nondenominational English speaking church that serves the international and Brazilian communities, a Christmas Eve mass will take place on Sunday, December 24th, at 10AM.
“It’s great to celebrate Christmas together, because the holiday unites and unifies people from so many different cultures. We have Pakistanis for example, who celebrate Christmas in a distinctive way, as a part of our church. It’s very encouraging and helps us to remember the reason for the season, Jesus,” says Jay Bauman, American expatriate and pastor of the Union Church since 2014.
Additionally, a typical Brazilian Catholic mass can be seen at the Nossa Senhora da Paz Church, in Ipanema. Besides the traditional “Missa do Galo” mass, which happens on December 25th at 12AM, Nossa Senhora da Paz Church will also promote seven religious ceremonies on December 25th, from 7AM to 9PM.
Apart from the religious celebrations, there are several parties and events going on in Rio during the holiday. One of the hippest rock bars in Rio de Janeiro, Bukowski, will be hosting its annual Christmas party on December 24th, at 11:59 PM.
Legendary among the young and cool who look for an escape from traditional family gatherings, Bukowski’s Christmas party includes an open bar all night long for only R$34. Also, there will be a Santa Claus will be distributing gifts on the dance floor.
In Glória, the house Bella Vista will promote a post-dinner Christmas party on December 24th, also starting from 11:59 PM. The musical line-up includes DJs Caslu, Alan Castro, Rodrigo Godi and Alex Lopes, who will spin Brazilian funk, deep house and hip-hop. In addition, group Firmamento will be playing live samba and pagode.
In Centro, the Boiler Christmas party will take place at the Boiler Rio, also on Christmas Eve, at 11:59 PM. DJs House N Deep Team, Franco Pelegrini, Duda Santos, Two2Bazz and Armitryx will run the pickups with the best of electronic music until the late hours.
Those in the mood to eat out on Christmas Eve will also find high standard dinners at the best restaurants in Rio, which will be serving exclusive menus for this special occasion. At the modern Mama Shelter hotel, in Santa Teresa, one can enjoy plates like prawn couscous with spicy tomato sauce (R$35) and roast cockerel stuffed with mushrooms (R$56) from 7PM until 12AM on Sunday, December 24th.
At the refined Fasano Al Mare, in Ipanema, a five course meal specially prepared by chef Paolo Lavezzini includes roast pork with slated chard and “panetone” filled with chocolate and ice cream, also to be served on December 24th.