From carrying pomegranate seeds in your wallet to eating lentils from atop a ladder, a local shares seven interesting Brazil’s New Year’s Eve traditions.
There’s no question that New Year’s Eve is a special time, and the holiday’s rituals in Brazil are not lacking. Here’s a look at seven New Year’s Eve traditions in Brazil as well as their meanings.
1. Jumping seven waves
Brazilians living in coastal cities like Rio de Janeiro head into the ocean to jump over seven waves. This custom, one of Brazil’s most famous New Year’s Eve rituals, probably originated in Greece, where the ancient Greeks believed that the sea had power and spirituality. However, it was the Africans who brought the rite to our country, asking for the protection and strength of Iemanjá, the goddess of the sea, an important orixá, or deity, from Umbanda. While jumping each wave, you should make a wish or express gratitude for something good that happened to receive extra strength from Iemanjá to achieve your goals.
2. Eating lentils
This is one of the most popular New Year’s rituals in Brazil and Chile, a custom believed to have originated from Italian immigrants. It’s said that lentils attract money and abundance, in part due to their shape, which resembles small coins. Regardless of the other food on the table, everyone goes for the lentils first then climbs to a higher spot (chair, table, ladder) and eat seven forkfuls before returning to the table to enjoy your meal. This is said to guarantee money all year round.
3. Eating fruit
In many regions, it is common to have a fruit basket at New Year’s Supper, some of which are indispensable and worthy of their own superstition, such as the pomegranate, apple and grape, all related to success and finances. Pomegranate is a little harder to find and costs more, ancient Eastern civilizations believed it was a magical fruit, capable of attracting wealth to its cultivators, a belief that has been passed down through the generations to the present day. The most common New Year’s superstition is to eat pomegranate and keep seven seeds in your wallet year-round. It’s a little more complex to find the origins of the idea of eating an apple at midnight, but its symbolism is related to success and it’s believed that whoever takes a bite out of a deep red fruit at the stroke of midnight will have prosperity. Eating grapes at the turn of the year is a belief that came from Spain’s abundant 1909 harvest. Grapes symbolize prosperity and abundance, and it is customary to eat 12 (one for each month) and keep the seeds in your wallet. Some believe that the flavor of each grape points out what each month will be, such as sweet indicating a pleasant month and bitter a difficult one. In recent years, eating candied fruits, as well as walnuts, chestnuts and other “nuts” has become popular, a custom brought by Arab immigrants that is also related to the abundance.
4. Wear white
The tradition of wearing white is also related to African immigration, as many tribes wore white robes to honor Yemanja, a water deity, in order to obtain peace and spiritual purification. However, it’s believed that this didn’t spread throughout the country until the 1980s, due in part to the popularization of soap operas and TV shows. Today, besides white, there are meanings for all colors of clothes that people wear on New Year’s Eve that tie back to African religions. Yellow is believed to attract money while pink and red are related to love. Green means hope, and blue, harmony – only black remains an unusual color to wear on this day.
5. Offering gifts to Iemanjá
As seen before, Iemanjá has an important role in Brazilian culture. According to the belief, she is considered the mother of waters, and therefore a nurturer to everyone so Brazilians ask for prosperity by making offerings to her via flowers, palms or white roses. When they are placed in the sea, people usually make a request based on the good energy and goals that they intend to achieve the following year.
6. Sipping sparkling wine
Sipping sparkling wine is a tradition around the world, though the rhyme and reason for doing so may vary. In the old days, only European nobility drank Champagne, and its high price led to the production of more affordable sparkling wines. Since it’s made from grapes, it is believed that sipping sparkling wine at midnight attracts luck in addition to symbolizing life, joy and happiness. At midnight, Brazilians take three sips of sparkling wine and make a wish for each sip.