Are you in Rio for the Xmas holidays? Don’t know how to celebrate the New Year? Here is a suggestion; put on a white outfit, make a wish, and let yourself go…

Words by Silvia Russano

The beginning of a New Year is often tied up to a moment of reflection, good wishes, and changes. For many people in Brazil, it begins by paying homage to the goddess Iemanja, the Queen of the sea, the patron of fishermen, a female deity of African religions Candomblé and Umbanda. Its name comes from under the African language Yoruba “Yeye Omo eja” which means “mother whose children are like fish.”

Offers for Goddess Iemanja

Offers for Goddess Iemanja

A particular rite, no doubt the biggest party in the country in tribute to the Goddess, is repeated on several beaches around Brazil. This is one of the most interesting and ancient traditions, symbolizing the multifaceted nature of this country that embodies the most ancient and diverse cultures.

While in Salvador de Bahia, the rite occurs annually on the 2nd of February, celebrations in Rio start during the New Year and involve thousands of people, dressed in white, walking in procession to the mouth of the Rio Vermelho (Red River) in order to leave their offerings. In fact, participants place their offerings on small boats in the form of gifts. Amongst them are flowers, jewellery, perfume bottles, soaps, mirrors and food. If these gifts do not sink or are returned to the beach by the tide, it means that Iemanja can not fulfill the request.

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New Year’s Eve is one of Rio de Janeiro’s most important celebrations, second only to Carnival in popularity. It attracts people from all over the world, and Brazilians from all states. The festivities are concentrated in Copacabana, attracting over 2 million people every year. Stages are set along the beach with live music shows starting at 8 p.m., featuring everything from traditional Carnival songs to rock and dance.The fireworks festival starts at midnight, with the turning of the year.

And you? How do you celebrate your New Year? Leave a comment and let us know…

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