Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In with the new - São Paulo

Photo credit: funlava.com

Today is New Year's Eve all across the world. It is my favorite Brazilian holiday as it is beautiful: filled with family and friends and food. It is the Brazilian Thanksgiving. No, not really. There should be no comparison--each one is my favorite in situ.

Last month I visited Boston and was invited to my niece's school to talk about the Brazilian traditions on New Year's Eve. It was fun, and my "research" reminded me of many of the best parts of the holiday. I must tell you that I don't love New Year's Eve in the US--it seems to be filled more with people behaving badly and crowded parties and dangerous roads as people drive home in less than ideal conditions (ice and snow plus drunks --ok, anything plus drunks--are ingredients for disaster). Many years ago, my brother and I went to Times Square and he got off at the wrong subway stop and I lost him for hours. I don't miss it.

Rio's New Year's Eve celebration
Brazil wins for New Year's just based on its Southern Hemisphere location. It's summer here, folks, and no layering for going out is necessary. In fact, less is more. Many people head to the beach, in particular to Rio de Janeiro, for the famous Reveillon party there. I admit I have never been to that celebration, but if you ask me, it's not necessary to get in the middle of the masses and in fact it is preferable to be on a quiet beach like Guaecá. Not that even small beaches are quiet--we did a quick estimate of the people who would flock to that 3 km beach on New Year's and it topped 6,000. That is one-third of the size of my home town. Yikes.

No matter where you celebrate the holiday, everyone puts on white clothing. Underneath it all, you have a choice--though it starts with new underwear. Everyone has on new underwear (no, no one will check). You can then wear different color underwear depending on your wishes in the new year--red for passion, green for money, etc. No, I did not mention this to the 5-year olds at my niece's school though I did say that they should wear new underwear. This provoked lots of giggling.

For New Year's Eve dinner, the most common dish is suckling pig. Leitoa. The way BH's family does it is on a slow cook for  hours, and the skin is crunchy (sorry for that, all you vegetarians out there). The pig is complete with nose and trotters. The reason for pork and not chicken or turkey is that theoretically a pig walks forward as it eats, while a chicken or turkey walks backwards. The idea is to walk forward into the New Year.

Other accompaniments are always champagne rice with almonds, lentils (a symbol of luck because they are shaped like coins) and pomegranate seeds. Dinner is at midnight, unless you've got small kids and then, well, it's still midnight but your kids are passed out somewhere in the corner. Kids are always at New Year's celebrations--this is not the night you get a babysitter. You enter the new year with your loved ones.

Lighting candles for Iemanjá
If you are at the beach, the tradition is to head down to the beach a little before midnight and to light small candles for Iemanjá and throw flowers for her into the sea. Iemanjá is the goddess of the sea and the guardian of fishermen. 

It is so unbelievably beautiful at these moments you are filled with happiness and excitement for the New Year. As the countdown happens, and it is always a mass decision on when exactly there are 20 seconds left to go, the fireworks go off (someone always has them, but in the bigger towns, it is a public-funded effort) in a spectacular lighting of the sky and beach. At Guaecá, the fireworks are small but we can see Ilha Bela's larger fireworks display and lights over the hill in Toque-Toque. They reflect on the waves.

After wishing each person in your group a "Feliz Ano Novo" and giving them a kiss on the cheek and a hug, you walk to the water and jump seven waves for luck. After that, it is time to head for home and the New Year's Eve dinner. 

I am at home in São Paulo this year with my parents, husband and kids. We won't be able to jump the seven waves, but we will enjoy many of the traditional treats. I've read now that I should walk around my house with an empty suitcase if I want to travel, and at midnight I should step down from a higher step to a lower step with my right foot so I can enter the New Year "on the right foot." We'll be wearing white. 

Wishing you a beautiful New Year's celebration with your loved ones.  Feliz Ano Novo!

No comments:

Post a Comment