New Year's Traditions in Brazil

Guest post by Jhenifer L.

All around the world, people celebrate New Years in different ways. In Spain, they eat twelve grapes, and in Denmark, they take a leap when the clock strikes midnight. But did you know that in Brazil, our celebrations are closely linked to African-Brazilian beliefs and rituals? Here are some things we do and the meaning behind them.


It's very common for Brazilians to spend New Years at the beach – especially in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. Huge stages are set up and the country's most famous singers come to perform in front of thousands of people every year. Names like Ivete Sangalo, Roberto Carlos, and Cláudia Leitte often make an appearance, and the crowd goes wild.

It's second in popularity only to Carnaval, which takes place a couple of months later. For that reason, hotels are usually fully booked months in advance, so if you are considering traveling to Brazil for the occasion, I strongly suggest you start looking for a place to stay early into the year.

When the countdown is over and the clock strikes twelve, a fireworks show takes place, lighting up entire cities. At that moment, you will see people rush into the ocean to jump over exactly seven waves. With each wave, they make a wish to the goddess (orixá) Iemanjá for the upcoming year. The most religious people go an extra mile, sending small boats and white roses into the ocean as well.

The number of waves has to be seven. It is the sacred number in African-Brazilian religions, such as Umbanda and Candomblé. And a pro tip: when you are done jumping your waves, make sure to go back to the sand backwards as it is said to bring good luck!


Brazilians are very superstitious about the clothes they wear on New Year's Eve. Most families even buy new clothes for the celebration, to represent a fresh start. The colors worn play a big role in this superstition; wearing white on this night is almost an unspoken rule. White represents peace for the year ahead, and is linked to the god (orixá) Oxalá, syncretized with Jesus Christ. 

There is a lot of thought given to the color of their underwear as well. Do you want to attract money and financial success? Then wear yellow. Do you want to attract love and passion? Then wear red or pink. Do you want to attract hope? Then wear green.

The only color to avoid is black. Wearing black is a no-go on this occasion as it is believed to attract bad energy and death. However, some believe that it represents new beginnings, or perhaps they just say so to incite very heated arguments with their most superstitious relatives!

Here are just a few meanings for these colors. Different traditions ascribe different meanings!


Brazil is a tropical country that produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables year-round. As part of the decorations at many New Year's parties, people cut up mangos, watermelons, pineapples, and grapes that will later be eaten as dessert. While it's a common tradition, many people are unaware that it is linked to another African-Brazilian god, Oxóssi, the orixá of the forest.

As the New Year marks a time for fresh starts, why not kick off the year on the right foot? Book a Portuguese trial lesson with us, and join in on the unforgettable celebration at the end of the year in Copacabana!