About This Festival
Bid farewell to the old year with style and grace on the famed sands of Rio’s Copacabana Beach. This might be the world’s largest beach party with a record 2.3 million people ringing in the 2013 New Year. The heartstopping fireworks, tantalizing traditions and unbeatable setting of this gorgeous beach make Réveillon one of world’s most spectacular ways to celebrate “Ano Novo.”
Réveillon - The Ultimate White Party
Much like other festivals in Brazil, Réveillon is an eclectic mix of religion, tradition, superstition and festa (that’s Carioca for party). Réveillon borrows its name from the French, its religion from Africa and the local superstitions ever continue to evolve. Before the clock strikes midnight, the festival is mostly a family affair. This custom rings true for most of Latin America. Families and friends gather in the millions with food and drink, because food is love in the southern part of the world. And speaking of food and recipes, on this night pork is in and chicken is out, because our feathered friends scratch backwards without moving forward when feeding, and the first day of the New Year is all about forward motion. Backwards was so last year.
Live international bands and samba line the Avenue Atlantica and it all really starts shaking around 8 p.m. But the most iconic part of the festival is the all-white dress code. White symbolizes purity, peace and renewal while appeasing Iemanjá, the goddess of the sea. With high hopes for the New Year and honoring the year behind us, white is right. Add a touch of red for romance, a dash of green for health, a few yellow flowers for wealth, a bit of blue for peace—apparently the little things don’t go unnoticed by the immortals. Just stay away from the color black, it’s considered bad luck and bad taste on this superstitious night.
When the barges go “BOOM!” it’s high time to party. Réveillon is one of the festival heavyweight contenders not only with the masses of bodies but in the sheer amount of explosives that go into its more than 20-minute show. It’s one of the world’s largest fireworks displays and the barges line the whole beach so everyone has a front row seat to the pyrotechnics. If you can’t handle the crowds there are all kinds of elegant (and expensive) parties in the high-rises that line the beach. Many families celebrate with a midnight meal in the comforts of their home. All are good but you can’t beat being on the beach, front and center.
The Réveillon festival (also a common celebration in New Orleans), is rooted in the spiritual beliefs of the African religion of Candomblé. The goddess Iemanjá is the ruler and protector of the sea. When life is a beach, Iemanjá is your queen. Pay proper respects in the form of white dress and offerings of white flowers, candles, rice and perfume to the sea, all of which can be purchased from enterprising local vendors. Legend says that one might send out prayers on the water on little rafts. If they make it out to sea, Iemanjá is pleased; if they return, better luck next year. Devout Candomblé followers have moved on to other locations like Barra de Tijuca, but the tradition remains for the masses.
Seven Waves, Seven Jumps, Seven Wishes
This is our favorite Réveillon festival ritual and another to honor her majesty Iemanjá. When the fireworks have ended, just follow the crowd to the sea. Jump seven waves and with each one make a wish. Make sure you don’t look back or Iemanjá might get mad. Rio and life in Brazil are tied to the ocean, so an angry Iemanjá is the last thing you want. Low on cash? Put some reales in your right pocket and take one right-legged hop for prosperity. Looking for love? Don’t be shy, get your New Year’s rolling by not wasting any time to greet someone of the sex you’re interested in. Now you even have a great excuse: the local traditions made me do it! It’s good luck and you just might make a new friend. The masses of candles and flowers add to the romance of the evening, especially with your own wishes sent out on little boats with a candle to light the way.
If Copacabana represents the family, on the other side of Rio things take a turn for the wild. The beaches of Ipanema feature international electronic DJs with a beat-heavy dance party that lasts deep into the night. It’s a good option to check out the fireworks at Copacabana on the Ipanema side, jump some waves, then take the hour-plus walk to Ipanema to check out the scene. It’s crowded but the people watching is fantastic, and you’ll thank us later for reminding you to wear comfortable shoes. It’s a favorite hangout for the gay and lesbian community, and the Cariocas know how to party as well as anyone, if not better.
You know you’ve had a good night when the sun is rising and you’re still out. It’s a good idea to put on the sunscreen before you go out as you may be sleeping the day away on Ipanema January 1, making your first day of the New Year one to remember.