Cultural Traditions and Festivals Unique to Brazil

Brazil is a country that  is well known and loved for its rich cultural traditions and fun festivals. Traditions and festivals center around sports, religion, and even a martial art practice unique to only Brazil.


The festival of Carnival celebrates a season of decadence before the Catholic time of Lent begins. Carnival is Brazil’s biggest and most well known festival. In the preceding weeks to the beginning of the colorful festival, local bands play throughout community neighborhoods, fancy balls are held, and smaller forms of street parades march through cities. The most famous cities that host these celebrations are Rio and Salvador. During Carnival, Samba schools that have been rehearsing and preparing for months parade through the streets in colorful costume and on decorative floats while dancing to traditional Brazilian Samba.

Bumba-meu-boi and Other Religious Festivals

Religious festivals quite commonly take place throughout Brazil all year long. One of the most famous is the Bumba-meu-boi festival that takes place in Sao Luis. In the festival, the townsfolk act out a folk story that surrounds the killing and resurrection of a bull. In Nova Jerusalem, the citizens act out the largest passion play in Latin America in the time leading up to Easter. And, in Saolvador the annual washing of the steps of the Bonfim Church is an event that draws over 800,000 people.

New Years

In Rio each year around the time of New Years, Reveillon begins. Restaurants serve buffet lunches early in the day before thousands of people begin gathering on the beaches of Rio for elaborate firework displays. During this time, members of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomble, will wear all white and set small boats with candles and trinkets to sail in the ocean as an offering to the sea goddess Yemenja.


Capoeira is a martial art unique to Brazil that stems from self defense practices of African slaves. The slaves had to practice secretly, thus disguised it as a dance. Today, the art resembles both dance and fighting equally.


[Pictures] Carnival 2013

Another year of Carnival has wound down in Rio, just in time for the beginning of Lent. Many of us weren’t able to make it to the world famous event, so here’s some pictures taken during this years Carnival celebration.

Bars, Clubs, Theaters, Museums, Libraries Closed During Fire Safety Checks in Rio

Sergio Simões, secretary of civil defense, talks about fire safety, photo by Marcelo Horn/Imprensa RJ.

In response to the tragic fire that killed 231 people in the Rio nightclub in January 2013, authorities have been conducting license and safety checks across Brazil. This has resulted in over 120 venues being closed. Outside of this, another fifty commercial premises remain open after the checks, but have received fines, and another twenty received warnings.

“We never had targets [for inspections in the past]. Now we understand that this is necessary. We are establishing targets that must be met. Inspections are vitally important for the prevention of fires,” said Colonel Sergio Simoes, the commanding general of Rio de Janeiro’s Fire Brigade in regards to the safety checks.

Rio is currently crowded with people from all over the world who have come to attend the yearly Carnival, so these safety checks couldn’t have come at a better time. Some of the closings unfortunately did include live samba music venues that are popular during Carnival, however safety is of a primary concern.

“Let’s see how long it’s closed for though,” said a local Rio expatriot in regards to the closing of one of his favorite venues. “Frequently these places make the necessary changes and reopen quite quickly.”

“It is sad that business owners here are being punished for a tragedy that happened in one place in the south. The authorities are making sure they are all over the news being vigilant on security when perhaps they should just be doing their job as usual.” said a nightclub owner. Their opinion isn’t alone, as many nightclub and bar owners feel they were within the law, but were still shut down, causing a wave of frustration in the country.

A current list of closings is as follows:

Clubs and Bars

Turma OK
Cine Ideal
Le Boy
Quintal Carioca
Centro Cultura Carioca
Casa de Festas Infantil Alakazan
Casa Rosa
Casa da Matriz
00 (zero-zero)
Mud Bug
Oi Futuro

Bronx Bar
Alto Lapa

Teatro Odisséia
Garagem Gamboa
Scala Rio

Partially closed Clubs and Bars *These clubs remain open as bars and dining institutions, but cannot operate as clubs.*
Carioca da Gema

Milano Lounge
Bar do Copa
Blue Agave (no live music)

Esquina Teatro Bar

Museu da Imagem e do Som
Museu Carmen Miranda
Museu do Ingá
Casa França-Brasil,
Memorial Getúlio Vargas

Mario Iago
Candido Mendes

Glaucio Gill
Armando Gonzaga
Arthur Azevedo
Teatro Municipal Carlos Gomes

Teatro Municipal do Jockey
Sala Municipal Baden Powell
Teatro Municipal de Marionetes Carlos Werneck

Teatro Municipal Gonzaguinha
Teatro Municipal Café Pequeno
Espaço Cultural Municipal Sérgio Porto
Teatro Municipal Ziembinsky
Teatro Municipal Maria Clara Machado



Top 5 Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro

The Botanical Gardens

Visiting the Botanical Gardens in Rio is like taking a trip to a different world all together. When you first enter the main gate, there are several paths to take, with each path leading to a different area of the gardens that has a different theme. It’s best to head out early in the morning and beat the crowds so you can leisurely stroll through. The park is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm and is only R$4 per person, with seniors over 60 and children under 7 getting in free.

Santa Teresa

If you’re looking for something unique and different, try exploring the Bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa in Rio. This particular area is home to many artists. Here you can see beautiful historic houses, view unique art expos, or stop by for a drink at Bar do Mineiro. You can also visit Museu Chácara do Céu, which has some unique art expositions, including photos of old Rio. Remember not to travel within this district alone at night for safety reasons, but don’t shy from night visitation either – the neighborhood comes alive with Samba music!

Artisan Market

There is an artisan market, the Feira Hippie, that is a Sunday tradition dating from the 1970’s. It features an entire plaza filled with unique artwork, jewelry, clothing, and even furniture. Products are often times more expensive at this market than other places, however, due to it becoming a popular tourist spot. The market is set up and takes place every Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.


Since 1984, the Sambodromo has been the location for Rio’s world famous Carnival event. During Carnival off-season, the stadium still hosts other events and concerts. If you happen to be in the area within a few months prior to Carnival, you can even visit the stadium and watch the Samba schools rehearse for the big event. There’s nothing like it!

Ipanema Beach

Rio is extremely famous for its beaches, of course. It’s smack dab in between Copacabana and Leblon beaches. Here you can catch some rays, brave the waves on a surfboard (or watch the brave surfers near the rocks), play a round of “soccer in the round” on the beach, or grab a cold coconut juice and just enjoy the show. This section of the beach is also located right in front of Caesar’s Palace at Farme de Amoedo street. You’ll find a great mix of young and old and singles and families at this beach.


Previous Year’s Carnival Winners

It’s not easy winning the coveted Carnival Championship for which Samba schools work year round to have a shot at. With Carnival fast approaching, we’ll soon see the country’s best Samba schools giving it their best, but their can only be one champion. Here’s a look at some of the schools that have won in prior years:


The Unidos da Tijuca samba school




The Unidos da Tijuca samba group


School of Samba Salgueiro




Beija Flor samba school


Samba Schools Gearing Up for Carnival 2013

Carnival is Brazil’s biggest and most renowned yearly event. It’s know for its bright costumes, samba dancers, loud music, and parade floats – but it’s also an important competition for Samba Schools.

There are six divisions of Samba schools, with over seventy schools throughout the divisions – Special Group, and groups A, B, C, D, E. Only schools in the Special Group will appear in the parade. Twelve of Brazil’s highest ranking Samba schools will make it into the Special group. The schools chosen this year are: Inocentes de B. Roxo, Salgueiro, Unidos da Tijuca, União da Ilha, Mocidade, Portela, São Clemente, Mangueira, Beija-flor, Grande Rio, Imperatriz and Vila Isabel.

So, how do the schools have a shot at winning in the Carnival competition? It all begins many months before Carnival starts. Schools first choose their theme, a theme that needs to be displayed throughout their performance. The, during Carnival, the panel of judges scores each school in the following categories: Theme of the Year, Samba Song, Percussion Section, Harmony, Continuing Spirit Throughout the Parade , Overall Impression, Float and Props, Costumes, Front Commission or Vanguard Group, and The Flag Carrying Couple. Results, and the winners, are then announced on Ash Wednesday after Carnival has concluded. The school with the highest score is that year’s Carnival champion, however the school ranked the lowest will get demoted to Group A.

Samba: The Music of Carnival

Music is a substantial part of Brazilian history and culture, whether it’s the musical sounds of Brazilian Choro, energetic feel of Brazilian Samba, the musical movement dubbed Tropicalismo, or the rooty sounds of Bahian, they have all played an important role in making Brazil what it is today. In this article we are focusing on Samba – the official music of Brazil’s Carnival.

In the early 20th century, music was needed for the Rio Carnival celebrations, thus the Samba de Enredo was born. This type of Samba consists of one or two singers, joined by hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of chorus members and drummers. Samba de Enredo is described as being the loudest form of music you’ll ever experience, and the really amazing thing is it’s all done without any form of amplification. Local Rio Samba schools make a recorded compilation of music from that year’s Carnival every year. Although listening to a recording is nowhere near as powerful as it is live, you can take a listen to this recorded sample with the link below:

Samba-Cancao is another form of Samba derived from Samba de Enredo. While still along the same musical line, Samba-Cancao is much quieter and is performed by only one singer and one back up band. This type of Samba can consist of both fast and slow songs, and is retains more popularity than the grander scale Samba de Enredo in Brazil due to its more relaxed pace. Some of the more popular Samba-Cancao artists are Beth Carvalho, who holds title of Queen of this genre, Alcione, and Clara Nunes, and Paulinho da Viola. Take a listen to the Queen of Samba at the link below:

Dancing to Samba is an entire art-form in itself. In fact, entire schools in Brazil are dedicated to teaching the Samba and this dance is taken rather seriously by many. The Samba is generally danced in 2/4 time, but there are several constantly changing types of Samba:

Samba No Pe – Solo samba dance consisting of right and left leg lifts coinciding with the beat of the song. This is the most popular form of Samba dance used in Carnival events. Take a look at the link below to see some Carnival Samba dancing:

Samba de Gafieira – This is a partner Samba that is often looked at as a combination of the Waltz and the Tango.

Samba Pagode – A more intimate version of the Samba de Gafieira and with less acrobatics.

Samba Axe – An entirely choreographed solo version of Samba.

Samba de Roda – This is an Afro-Brazilian dance that is choreographed and includes singing, clapping, dancing, even poetry.



A Brief History of Carnival

Carnival is one of the best known and oldest traditions to date where cities the world over hold Carnival celebrations before the Catholic time of Lent, which is a time of fasting, self-denial, and prayer. Cities in each continent hold colorful Carnival celebrations each year, with Brazil actually holding the Guinness Book of World Records title of being the largest Carnival celebration in the world.

The exact beginnings of Carnival are still in dispute, but one thing’s for sure – it’s been around a while. The origins of Carnival as we know it today began in medieval Italy, but many of the rituals that are the make-up of this festival date back to pre-Christian times. For instance, the elaborate masked costumes featured in Carnival celebrations are thought to date back to Swabian-Alenannic carnival. Roman Festivals, such as Saturnalia and Bacchanalia, are also thought to have contributed to Carnival.

The Carnival celebrations that really laid the groundwork for present day Carnival began in Venice, Italy. From there it began to spread and take root all over Europe, including France, Portugal, Germany, and Spain, eventually making its way into North American, Latin American, and Caribbean cultures. The celebrations in these areas of the world are probably the ones you are most familiar with, such as Mardi Gras in Louisiana, Carnival in Brazil, and Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.

How Carnival obtained its name is still in dispute. It’s widely believed that it comes from the Italian word Carne, which means meat, and that it possibly even further derived from the Italian phrase carne levare, which means “to remove meat”. This makes sense because it was common to refrain from eating any form of meat during Lent. Other scholars believe Carnival’s name originates from the Latin expression carne vale which means “farewell to meat” or “farewell to flesh”. There are also some historians that will argue that the name came from the Latin carrus navalis, meaning “ship cart”, and the Roman festival of Navigium Isidis, where celebrations were held to bless the start of the sailing season.

Whatever the true origins of Carnival may be – it’s a pretty phenomenal thing to be such a wide spread celebration of life, love, happiness, joy, and fulfillment that takes place in so many countries throughout the world.

Recife: The Business Professional’s Retreat

Holding the stake as of one of Brazil’s largest and most important business centers, Recife stays pretty busy. With two international ports, an international airport, and a large information technology district (“Porto Digital”) that features locations for technology giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Samsung, and Dell, this is truly a booming and ever-expanding city. The Federal University of Pernambuco, the Brazilian state in which Recife is capital, even has what is considered the best computer-science departments in Latin America. You’ll also find that the industrial area of Recife is busy manufacturing textiles, automotive parts, and even chocolate. Recife certainly isn’t “all work and no play”, however. Locals traveling business professionals play just as hard as they work.

There always seems to be a celebration of some sort in Recife, including extensive and widely popular Carnival celebrations. The parties and preparations for Carnival begin in December here, and last all the way until the week before Ash Wednesday – then the real Carnival celebration begins. The time leading up to Carnival consists of bands practicing in local clubs, bars, and in the streets, balls, and festive parties. When official Carnival time approaches, downtown Recife hosts a giant party to kick off the celebration called Galo da Madrugada. If you truly want to experience a grand and exciting Carnival, book a room at one of Recife’s many wonderful hotels and experience the party of a lifetime!

Museums, shopping, restaurants, and other cultural hotspots are also in abundance in this beautiful city. For a unique sightseeing experience, check out the Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel, the America’s oldest known synagogue. The Gilberto Freyre Foundation is also a worthwhile visit as it features book collections and arts and crafts from this famous Brazilian writer all located in his old home. All in all there are 38 art galleries, 40 cinema theatres, 25 museums, and 1 opera house located in Recife and surrounding areas. Enough to keep any tourist busy!

The cuisine found in Recife is truly phenomenal. You’ll taste a variety of flavors in the local dishes offered here that boast delightful culinary touches inherited from Recife’s Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, and Africans history. Typical ingredients found in popular dishes range from coconut, corn, and yams to lobster, goat, and beef. Many of these dishes are served with Farofa, a flour mixture containing a range of delicious spices. With over 1500 bars and restaurants to choose from you’re sure to get your fill of the array of delicious traditional and regional specialties found here!

Recife doesn’t lack in the beautiful and relaxing beach department either with 3 beaches to choose from: Boa Viagem Beach, Brasilia Teimosa Beach, and Pina Beach. Boa Viagem Beach, being the most popular of the 3 beaches, is one of the most urban beaches in Brazil. Vendors selling delicious food and local delicious coconut water are plenty. Taking a swim in the beautiful waters, mostly protected by a coral reef wall, is something you’ll want to be sure and do. Be careful not to swim past the coral reef, however, as there have been reports of Bull sharks in the area.

Recife is certainly a cultural, business, and tourism mecca. With all it has to offer, it shouldn’t be passed up during your Brazilian adventures.

Carnival Dates

Why Do Brazil’s Carnival Dates Change ?

Carnival dates change from year to year due to the Catholic calendar. Celebrations are not allowed to begin until after Ash Wednesday has passed. According to the calendar, Carnival always begins seven Sundays before the Easter Sunday. Carnival dates move every year due to this. Easter can fall anywhere between March 22nd to April 25th, and so Carnival dates are reflected in these.

Carnival Dates Through 2030:

Rio Carnival 2012 dates: February 17th until February 21st

Rio Carnival 2013 dates: February 8th until February 12th

Rio Carnival 2014 dates: February 28th until March 4th

Rio Carnival 2015 dates: February 13rd until February 17th

Rio Carnival 2016 dates: February 5th until February 9th

Rio Carnival 2017 dates: February 24th until February 28th

Rio Carnival 2018 dates: February 9th until February 13th

Rio Carnival 2019 dates: March 1rd until March 5th

Rio Carnival 2020 dates: February 21st until February 25th

Rio Carnival 2021 dates: February 12th until February 16th

Rio Carnival 2022 dates: February 25th until March 1st

Rio Carnival 2023 dates: February 17th until February 21st

Rio Carnival 2024 dates: February 9th until February 13th

Rio Carnival 2025 dates: February 28nd until March 4th

Rio Carnival 2026 dates: February 13th until February 17th

Rio Carnival 2027 dates: February 5th until February 9th

Rio Carnival 2028 dates: February 25th until February 29th

Rio Carnival 2029 dates: February 9th until February 13th

Rio Carnival 2030 dates: March 1st until March 5th