In Brazil, Christmas, December 25th is one of the most important festive days but the big celebration occurs on Christmas Eve. Having a multicultural population, the festivities in the country are influenced by ethnic ways. Although, they have retained some of the Christmas customs of the Portuguese colony. Notable among these is creating a nativity scene or “Presepio”, most common in the north east area of Brazil, places like Bahia, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Maranhao, Ceara, Pernambuco, Piaui and Alagoas. Every December, presépios are created during Christmas and displayed in churches, houses and stores. In Northeast Brazil there is also folk dancing and singing, the festivities go on until January 6th, which the Brazilians refer to as Three Kings Day – supposedly the day when three wise men visited Jesus to bring him gifts. In January, nativity sets are dismantled along with the Christmas trees and lights.
On Christmas Eve, thousands of devout Catholics attend the “Missa do Galo” or Midnight Mass. Masses are also organized on December 25 in the morning and later afternoon. Caroling is quite a popular custom. Various Christmas carols are sung to commemorate the birth of Christ. “Noite Feliz” (“Silent Night”) is probably the song most associated with Christmas in Brazil.
Christmas decorations in the country involve setting up Christmas trees in individual homes and adorning them beautifully with decorative items such as lights, plastic balls and glass balls. A highlight of Christmas celebrations in Brazil is making huge Christmas “trees” of electric lights. These “electric trees” can be seen against the night skies in major cities such as Brasilia, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro throughout the season.
In the beginning of the previous century many immigrants came from Europe and other parts of the world and settled in Brazil. As a natural consequence, holidays celebrations in the country began to be observed in diverse ways and influenced by different traditions. Except for the high Summer temperatures and the absence of snow, Christmas is not an exception. Just like Santa Claus, “Papai Noel” (Father Noel) is the gift-bearer in Brazil.
This gift-giver to children is depicted as wearing a red fur coat with boots and carrying a bag full of presents. He is believed to secretly leave gifts at the house of every good child on Christmas Day. Children wake up early on Christmas morning to look for gifts from this benevolent character. According to legend, he lives in Greenland and resembles Santa in many ways but, when he arrives in Brazil, he wears silk clothing due to the Summer heat.
The traditional Christmas feast includes appetizers, turkey, pork ham, cod, colored rice, vegetables, many fruit dishes, Rabanada – “Brazilian-style French Toast” rabanada, a German “Stollen” or an Italian “Panetone”, fruit cocktail, beer and wine are also served. In some regions the feast starts on Christmas Eve around 9 pm, while in other places it is eaten at midnight with the children being served first.
Smoked Salmon Carpaccio recipe
-2 tbsps. of oil
-2 tbsps.of caper
-juice of 1 lemon
-salt to taste
-10 leaves of iceberg lettuce, chopped
-200g frozen smoked salmon carpaccio
Prepare the sauce mixing olive oil, capers, lemon juice and
salt and reserve. Line a platter with lettuce leaves, top with
salmon carpaccio and drizzle the sauce. Serve.
Servings: 20 croquettes
-½ lbs of cassava/yuca
-2/3 lbs of desalted cod and shredded
-1 tbsps of oil
-4 egg white
-Oil for frying
Peel the yuca and cook until very tender. Drain and pass the juicer still hot.
In a bowl, mix the cod, yuca, parsley and olive oil. Beat the egg whites. Add it to the mixture with cod and mix it gently. Make the croquettes and fry in hot oil. Place on paper towel to remove grease excess.
• For easier process substitute use canned yucca.
• Cod desalting: leave it in water for 24 hours in the refrigerator and change water several times.