By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
* originally published on December 13, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For many expatriates in Rio de Janeiro, celebrating Christmas can be a surreal experience. Instead of the usual snow and cold weather that braces many European and North American countries, Christmas falls at the height of the Brazilian summer. However, it is still considered an important Brazilian holiday, and here are some different ways to celebrate Christmas this year in the Cidade Maravilhosa.

The iconic Árvore de Natal da Lagoa (The Lagoa Christmas Tree), which is a focal point for many Cariocas during the Christmas season, has finally returned to the waters of Rio after a two-year hiatus, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News,
The iconic Árvore de Natal da Lagoa (The Lagoa Christmas Tree), which is a focal point for many Cariocas during the Christmas season, has finally returned to the waters of Rio after a two-year hiatus, photo courtesy of Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

“To celebrate Christmas in Rio we join up with lots and lots of friends and have a proper British Christmas meal.” Joanna Ribeiro, member of the British and Commonwealth Society, comments.

Though those looking for the traditional Christmas lunch provided by the British and Commonwealth Society are going to have to search elsewhere, as the society decided to substitute this calendar staple with a Christmas Festival which they successfully held last weekend.

However, a few hotels and restaurants are offering something similar. The Sofitel Ipanema is putting on a Christmas dinner this Thursday, December 13th at 8PM, with French chef Jérôme Dardillac, followed by a wine tasting.

On Christmas day, the Grand Mercure in Rio’s city center is offering a Brazilian Christmas lunch. This buffet will feature Brazilian-style turkey roasted with figs and spices, plus the Portuguese-influenced bacalhau (cod).

Those looking for Christmas carols have a few options to get in the festive spirit from now until the 25th. ‘Germania Gávea’ (German Society in Gávea) are putting on a free Christmas concert this Thursday, December 13th at 7:30 PM.

The concert promises to be a night dedicated to the traditional Christmas carols and music of various countries, and will feature the choirs of the ‘Escola Alemã Corcovado’ (Corcovardo German School) and the ‘Fundação Getulio Vargas’ (Getulio Vargas Foundation).

The British-run Christ Church in Botafogo is offering a family nativity on Sunday, December 16th at 10:45 AM; plus, they are holding a carol service with mulled wine and mince pies on the same day at 7PM. There will also be a Christmas Day Communion on Tuesday, December 25th at 10:45 AM.

On Monday, December 17th, the ‘Theatro Municipal’ (Municipal Theater) will host a special Christmas concert entitled, ‘Uma Noite em Harmonia’ (A Night of Harmony).

The ‘Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira’ (Brazilian Symphony Orchestra) – who recently paid tribute to famed film composer John Williams – will be presenting excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker,’ as well as songs from Strauss, Prokofiev, and other traditional Christmas pieces.

Those looking for the closest thing to a winter wonderland can visit Downtown Shopping Mall in Barra da Tijuca. They have recently put up their trademark Christmas tree – a moving, kaleidoscopic invention which uses the same German computer system employed in the Rio 2016 Olympics opening show and in the latest edition of Rock in Rio.

The huge shopping malls in Barra da Tijuca often go to great lengths to recreate an authentic winter wonderland that can capture the imagination of children and adults alike, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News,
The huge shopping malls in Barra da Tijuca often go to great lengths to recreate an authentic winter wonderland that can capture the imagination of children and adults alike, photo courtesy of Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

With a life-size Santa’s house and nativity scene, visitors are able to capture their own magical Christmas moments on camera. There is also a firework display on Saturdays, from 8pm, until December 22nd. And Santa Claus is present on Saturdays and Sundays from 2PM to 8PM, also until December 22nd.

“I now mostly go to Brasilia for Christmas,” comments Amit Ramnani, British expatriate at Ipanema Wealth. “But I remember spending my first Christmas in Rio in 2011 with a random group of foreigners who hardly knew each other.” He continues.

“We enjoyed a culinary hotchpotch for lunch followed by a siesta on the beach, which all felt very surreal.” Ramnani conludes.

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