By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – New Year’s Eve on the beach with over 2,000,000 people in white clothes has an irresistible appeal for Cariocas – and maybe more so for foreigners. Réveillon, or the New Year’s Eve celebrations on Copacabana beach, famous for its majestic fireworks show, offers what sounds like a dream to those from the Northern Hemisphere, who are used to either braving freezing temperatures outdoors, or watching the fireworks on a TV screen.
The night that connects December 31st to new year’s day is an undeniably epic one in Rio, and the city’s second major touristic peak after Carnival, attracting visitors from all over Brazil, and around the world.
Known for its undying energy and unquenchable thirst for fun, the Cidade Maravilhosa makes sure to offer an unforgettable experience for all its residents and visitors with parties organized all over the city. Although certinaly the celebration along the four kilometer stretch of Copacabana beach remains the largest and most famous every year.
When the question is choosing the best spot to commemorate yet another year past, a lot depends on personal preferences. While Copacabana beach is home to a world-famous event that is worth seeing at least once in a lifetime, braving a crowd of 2,000,000 – which is larger than the population of over 80 countries in the world – is not for the faint of heart.
Copacabana, however, has more to offer than warm sand, the ocean, and a breathtaking fireworks show. This year it will witness the official presentation of the logo for the 2016 Olympics, and four stages set along the beach will be hosting some of the most popular musicians of Brazil, including Daniela Mercury, Sandra de Sá, and Alcione, all completely free of charge.
Among the attractions with even more local flavors will be the baterias of various samba schools, including last Carnival’s champions Unidos da Tijuca, as well as one of Rio’s most famous blocos, Cordão do Bola Preta. The shows will start at 8PM, however all the stages will have DJs pumping up the crowds from 6PM until 3AM.
Those who want to avoid the crowds, long bathroom lines, and the inevitable mess that the world’s largest New Year’s Eve party leaves behind, but still want to witness this celebration, may choose to attend one of the many private events organized along the rows of establishments overlooking Copacabana beach. They may come at a price, but offer unique viewing points for the attractions, along with guaranteed comfort.
Despite attracting more than a quarter of the city’s population, Copacabana is only one of the many neighborhoods that promise an unforgettable night. Lagoa, with its gorgeous views and gigantic floating Christmas tree, also holds a fireworks show, and thus many parties are organized all around the lagoon.
While Ipanema beach holds more low-key, alternative parties, as well as witness the after-hours celebrations of the Copacabana crowds, neighborhoods such as Flamengo and Barra da Tijuca will also have organized celebrations with big stages and screens.
One of the highlights of Réveillon 2011, though, is expected to be the party organized in the neighborhood of Penha in Zona Norte, the area hardest hit by the surge of violence in the city in late October.
A pyrotechnic spectacle at Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Penha, the church overlooking the neighborhood, will be accompanied by shows of AfroReggae and the samba school Imperatriz Leopoldinense, sending wishes of peace for the new year.
Whether you choose to join the millions with their contagious energy on Copacabana beach, or a private event, do not forget to dress in white for good luck, wish for a clear sky, and ring in the new year in true Carioca fashion.