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.


Easter 2013 in Rio

The long Easter weekend in Rio is a special holiday. Known as “Semana Santa” is a time of long-held Easter traditions and religious celebration. Around this time you’ll also find many non-religious events being held. Good Friday, or “Sexta Paixao”, is a national holiday in Brazil, with most businesses and schools closing on Thursday, Friday, and Monday.

If you happen to be in Rio around this joyous time, you can find many events and celebrations to attend. Here are a few that might interest you for the 2013 celebration:

Gringo Cafe

The cafe will be hosting an Easter edition of their new “Gringo Lounge”. A DJ will be featured, as well as a host of new menu items like red velvet cake, chocolate peanut butter cups, a flourless chocolate cake, and special Easter eggs benedict.

Religious Services

Christ Church of Rio will be holding a Holy Communion and a shared meal on Thursday at 7:30 pm. They will also have a bilingual English and Portuguese service at 3pm on Friday. On Sunday, communion will begin at the Christ Church at 8am, and be followed by another one at 10:30am. The Union Church will also be hosting a pancake breakfast between 8:30 and 9:30 am and have a Celebration Service at 10am. An egg hunt will follow these events.

Favela em Danca Festival

A dance festival is being held at the NGO Solar Meninos de Luz in the hills above Ipaneme and Copacabana. Dance styles, work shops, exhibitions, and competitions will be held.

(Outside of Rio)

Holy Week in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais

During this special week, every year this town transforms into a town full of colorful religious imagery. Beautiful carpets stretch between all the churches forming  a religious path of sorts. Actors also portray scenes from the bible on the streets.

Lollapalooza in Sao Paulo

This 3 day music festival will have some of the biggest names in music in attendance, including Pearl Jam, Deadmau5, the Killers, Criolo, and Graforreia Xilarmonica.

Amazonas Opera Festival

You may have been to an opera festival before, but have you ever been to one in the heart of the Amazon? Manaus, the capital city of Amazonas state in Brazil, hosts an opera festival every year between April and May and has been doing so for 16 years this year.

The Amazon Theater is host of most of the festivals main events, but there are several other surrounding vendors that host events as well. The theater is a stunning piece of Brazil’s history, and seeing it during the festival is the best way to experience the phenomenal sights and sounds it has to offer. Living up to Manaus’ vision of it standing out as a jewel in the heart of the rainforest, the theater is dotted with Italian columns and statues, beautiful French interior furniture, 198 Italian chandeliers, and an enchanting “meeting of the waters” curtain.

The official orchestra of the festival is the Amazonas Philharmonic, which is a relatively new orchestra formed in 1997 and features lead conductor Luiz Fernando Malheiro. The orchestra performs concerts of classical arias, recitals, and provides the music for full length operas held during the festival. You can catch a preview of the orchestra below.

Amazonas Philharmonic

There are a number of packages that travel companies have designed to make your Opera Festival stay an easy and pleasant one. Our favorite and most inclusive that we’ve seen so far is:

  • VisionofBrazil.Com – A 3 day package is available with meals, hotel stay, concert performances, transportation, and flight all scheduled for you. If interested, the link to this package is:

Official site of the Amazonas Opera Festival