26 December, 2010

Saying goodbye to 2010 in Rio de Janeiro

In Rio de Janeiro, the New Years Eve celebrations are grandiose. Let’s take a look at the who, what, where, and hows of this major party, second in Brazil only to Carnival.

The party: The main center of action is the beaches of Copacabana, where over two million people congregate to ring in the New Year. It's officially the largest NYE party in the world! This year's party theme is "The Golden Decade," in recognition of the international events which will be hosted in Brazil in the coming years. Entertainment begins around 8pm, with a variety of musical genres. Whether you desire traditional samba or DJs spinning beats, you will find it at one of the four stages lining Copacabana. At midnight partygoers will experience a short blackout, followed by intense illumination; fireworks will splash the skies over the ocean, the colourful show will last for twenty minutes.

Preparation and tradition: Dressing in white is a New Year’s tradition across Brazil, a practiced rooted in Afro-Brazilian religion. Wear comfortable shoes, keeping in mind you will most likely be on your feet most of the night, and there may be broken glass on the streets following the celebrations. Bringing a bottle of champagne is also appropriate. Often the bottle is shaken and sprayed over the heads of fellow partiers. Do not be disgruntled if you end up wet and messy as a result of this New Year’s ritual, this is an auspicious blessing. On that theme, another traditional practice of the Brazilian Reveillion (New Year’s Eve) is offering gifts to the goddess of the sea, Iemanja. You may see little boats decked with presents or flowers being floated into the ocean, all offerings to the deity. Devotees of Candomble, Umbanda, and other Afro-Brazilian religions refer to the entire event as Festa de Iemanja- Iemanja’s Party, and begin preparations days before. Priestesses lead ceremonies and offer consultations on the sands of the beach, and groups surround alters laden with candles and cachaca while drums beat out rhythms appeasing to the gods.

Transportation: The best way to get to and from the festivities is the metro. Tickets are available for purchase at selected metro stations (Largo do Machado and Carioca are the most convenient to Casa 579). Get your tickets in advance. After midnight, linger on the beach or head to a nearby club and continue your celebrations for awhile, allowing the traffic to calm before heading back to bed and breakfast.

03 December, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, Big Brazilian Christmas Tree...

On Saturday beginning at 8pm in the baseball field of Canterbury Park the people of Rio will celebrate the 15th annual Christmas tree in Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The supersized Christmas tree is the largest in the world. Construction of the spectacle began in September, and twelve hundred people have participated in the creation of this year’s edition.

2009's Lagoa Christmas Tree

The inauguration of the tree is the third largest event in Rio, following behind Carnival and New Year’s Eve. This year’s theme for the celebration is “A History of Reunion.” Artists participating in Saturday’s event include musicians Milton Nascimento, Simone, and Ivan Lins, and dancers Carlinhos de Jesus and Ana Botafogo. Actor Edson Celulari will be returning to serve once again as the master of ceremonies. If you can’t make it to Saturday’s celebrations, you still have a chance to bask in the glory of the grandiose Christmas display. The tree will be accessible up until the day of the kings, January sixth.

Milton Nascimento

Ana Botafogo

How to get there: Buy a special pass at the Metro station allowing you to ride the Metro Na Superficie. The ticket will cost R$2.80 and you will receive two transit cards: one covering the Metro line, and another for the bus (called the Metro Na Superficie) from the metro station Praca General Osorio to Lagoa. Take the Metro towards Zona Sul (southbound) to Praca General Osorio, and from there take the Metro Na Superficie bus to Lagoa.

To return: catch the Metro Na Superficie in Lagoa. You can buy the pass on the bus to cover both the bus and the Metro. Get off the bus at the Metro station, and transfer to a train towards Zona Norte (north).