Brazil is a great country not only because of its breath-taking landscapes, idyllic beaches, or rich wildlife; it also has an immense culture, full of joy and happiness. Brazilians seem to be happy all the time, and that’s because they have a party spirit, which is a direct portrait of their traditions. That’s the main reason behind the number of festivals and festivities present in the Brazilian culture. Even when Rio Carnival is the most famous one, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Today, you’ll find other unique Brazilian festivals that’ll grant unforgettable experiences if you decide to give them a try.
We understand that it is inevitable to automatically think of Rio Carnival when we talk about famous Brazilian festivals, but it is not the only one worth catching our attention. As we mentioned before, celebrations are a huge part of Brazilian culture. They love to dance, to sing, to perform, and to enjoy life. That’s why every festivity, as small as it may be, feels like the party of the century in this colorful country.
Brazilian people have a rich culture acquired by different factors: external influences from other countries and continents, indigenous traditions, etc. Various elements are displayed on their amusing festivals, which are how they narrate their culture and what makes them proud of it. Brazilians’ deep connection with music and arts, in general, makes all of it even better.
Cultural tourism is the third most famous in Brazil, under beach tourism and ecotourism. That’s why our most significant recommendation for you is to enjoy everything Brazil has to offer: culture, landscapes, wildlife, and good food. And that’s just the beginning of the list!
But how do you enjoy them all together? Just take into account the dates on which the most exciting festivals are held when booking your next vacation. That way, you can enjoy both the natural and the cultural part.
With that being said, let’s start. What are the festivals in Brazil that you need to discover?
Festas Juninas (June Parties)
Las Festas Juninas is probably the second most important festival in Brazil. During the whole month of June (and sometimes the first week of July), everyone celebrates by decorating the city with colorful flowers, flags, lights, and artisanry. This iconic cultural representation gathers millions of locals and tourists, who party all day long, enjoying the summer solstice perfect weather: fresh and sunny.
These celebrations were initially brought to the country by the Portuguese around the XVI century and had religious connotations. However, not much time passed until the Brazilian, and the afro-Brazilian took it and gave it a twist.
Nowadays, Las Festas Juninas has the purpose of celebrating the harvest and the country’s life. Thus, everybody dresses like farmers or people from little towns: they wear straw hats, flowery dresses and skirts, and plaid shirts while they dance to traditional music.
As it is common among the famous Brazilian festivals, beautiful firework shows, typical food displays, and dance competitions are also in order. The most characteristic element of the June parties in Brazil is the quadrilhas. It is danced with a partner, and you must follow the main narrator’s instruction, so everybody in the group dances to the same beat. It resembles country styles, and it is an entertaining activity that connects you to your dance partners in a beautiful way.
Typical food is served during the celebration. Since it happens during corn season, most of the dishes have a corn base. Our favorites are pamonha, canjica, paçoca, and cuscus. As for beverages, you will surely enjoy trying the hot wine (made with apples, pineapple, and other fruits) and the sweet quentão (a drink made of cachaça and spices).
Table of Brazilian Festa Junina, picture by: Paulo Vilela
Overall, Festas Juninas is a great option to discover, you won’t be bored for a minute, and local Brazilians will be glad to show you their culture, and maybe two or three dance moves!
Best cities to celebrate Las festas Juninas: Salvador (Bahía), Campina Grande (Paraíba), Caruaru (Pernambuco)
This is one of the Brazilian festivals that beautifully combines different important elements of its culture: religion, diversity, and arts. It ultimately celebrates the diverse roots that shape today’s Brazilian population and culture. It has Afro-Brazilian, Portuguese, and indigenous influences, so they all get together to enjoy and embrace their differences and similarities.
Bumba-meu-boi has been performed since the XVIII century. It began as an old history that the Portuguese would tell upon their arrival until the African, Afro-Brazilian, and the indigenous started to tell their own versions.
The festival retells the story of an African couple who lived as slaves in a farm: Catirina and Francisco. When Catirina gets pregnant, her cravings start to grow weirder and weirder, but Francisco loved her so much that he always made sure she was happy and satisfied.
One day, Catirina announces that she is desperately craving to eat an ox’s tongue. Francisco, always eager to make her happy, killed a farm’s ox and ceased her beloved wife’s craving. Everyone felt good until they found out that Francisco had killed their master’s favorite animal, who burst with anger when he noticed its absence. Francisco was too afraid of the possible consequences, so he quickly found help in a shaman, who got to bring the ox back to life.
They celebrated this miracle and said the celebration has lived throughout time. That’s the whole purpose of the Brazilian festival Bumba-meu-boi: rejoicing at the catholic miracle and upraising the indigenous and Afro-Brazilian elements of the story.
Picture by: Franck Camhi/Shutterstock
Nowadays, Bumba-meu-boi is a street festival that takes place during June. It is commonly celebrated around the whole country, but its major versions are found in the amazon state, Maranhão. We can easily say that this is one of the most important festivals in Brazil, and it was actually named Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
During Bumba-meu-boi streets fill with colors and decorations, and various theater groups perform the ancient story, dancing to traditional music called toada. Beautiful, colorful, and stunning oxen made of different elements are presented by local artisans and make part of the previously mentioned performances.
If we look for adjectives to describe what Bumba-meu-boi performances are about, we can confidently mention satire, tragedy, drama, and humor. A daring and adventurous mix that results in laugher and fun for everyone who may witness.
Traditional instruments accompany common ones: toada can be played with guitars, tambourines, triangles, but also cavaquinhos and zabumbas. This combination floods every street with happiness, dances, and a festive air that seems to be so common and natural during Brazilian festivals
Festival de Parintins (Parintins Festival)
Speaking of Oxen, let’s continue with another famous festival in Brazil: Festival de Parintins is also about this particular animal. It happens the last weekend of June in Parintins, a city in the Amazonas state. There, one can witness the fight between two huge oxen: Caprichoso and Garantido. Several teams compete against each other with their own versions of the oxen.
One could say that the Parintins Festival somehow evokes similar energy to Rio Carnival’s. The truth is that there are quite a few similarities: there’s a story to tell, a folklore queen, dancing parades, and so on. Many people find the Festival de Parintins just as beautiful and important as the Rio Carnival.
But the main difference is that the Festival de Parintins has a specific location: the Centro Cultural e Esportivo Amazonino Mendes but commonly known as the Bumbódromo. A fun fact about this unique location is that the stadium has the shape of an ox’s head.
Once you enter the location, you’ll see various parades with Caprichoso and Garantido as the protagonists. Numerous fights and encounters between the two beautifully made oxen are in order during Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Every presentation ranges from two hours to two hours and a half. Lively drums music, allegorical costumes with wings and feathers, incredible masters of ceremonies, and beauty queens are only a few elements that this competition has. Indigenous groups and traditional dancers also take part in the preparations and staging.
From the grandstands, people cheer and defend their favorite ox and their favorite team. Nine judges decide the winner based on both creative and traditional reasons.
Finally, the winning team parades along the streets of Parintins. Everyone parties, cheers, dances, and celebrates. Right from the very next day, preparations for the next year start.
Picture by: T photography
These are only three of the many cultural events in Brazil, but we can already take so much from them. As fun as they are, Brazilian festivals do not only focus on partying and having fun: they also represent an essential cultural show and appreciation of the traditions.
Perhaps what makes Brazilians so happy and lovely is that they are eager to share their culture with everyone else. That comes from the love that they have for it, and that’s just incredible.
Don’t miss the chance to get to know these amazing people and their culture. Let us know in the comments if you have participated in one of these events or in which you would like to participate!