Christmas In BRAZIL

Brazilians are a mix of people from many parts of the world, and as a former Portuguese colony, they have many Christmas customs which originate from this heritage.

One tradition is to create a nativity scene or Presépio. The word origins from the Hebrew word "presepium" which means the bed of straw upon which Jesus first slept in Bethlehem. The Presépio is common in northeastern Brazil (Bahia, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Maranhão, Ceará, Pernambuco, Piauí and Alagoas). The Presépio was introduced in the 17th century, in the city of Olinda in the state of Pernambuco by a Franciscan friar named Gaspar de Santo Agostinho. Nowadays presépios are set up in December and displayed in churches, homes, and stores.

The people of Northern Brazil, as in Mexico, enjoy a version of the folk play Los Pastores or "The Shepherds." In the Brazilian version, there are shepherdesses rather than shepherds and a gypsy who attempts to kidnap the Christ Child.

Papai Noel (Father Noel) is the gift-bringer in Brazil. According to legend, he lives in Greenland. When he arrives in Brazil, he usually wears silk clothing due to the summer heat.

A huge Christmas dinner, unusual in the hot summertime, includes turkey, ham, colored rice, and wonderful vegetable and fruit dishes.

Devout Catholics often attend Midnight Mass or Missa do Galo. (A galo is a rooster.) The mass has this name because the rooster announces the coming day and the Missa do Galo finishes at 1 AM on Christmas morning! On December 25th, Catholics go to church, but the masses are mostly late afternoon, because people enjoy sleeping late after the dinner (Ceia de Natal) or going to the beach.

Decorations include fresh flowers picked from the garden. Fireworks go off in the skies over the cites and huge Christmas "trees" of electric lights can be seen against the night skies in major cities such as Brasilia, San Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro.

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