New Years Eve (or Reveillon as it is called in Rio) is one of Brazil’s largest parties, second only to Carnaval. The main celebration, to the chagrin of some local residents, is in Copacabana where large crowds of people meet on the beach dressed in white to bring in the New Year. This year the crowd was estimated at 2 million and, from our perspective, the number is very believable. It was packed!
Pre-event activities included parties in the area for those who chose to wait a bit before hitting the beach. So we joined friends for a bit of food, drink and good company to get the evening started.
And then we headed down to join the crowds on the beach (with our private stock of bubbly in hand).
The traditions surrounding this event include dress - people wear white for the parties and trip to the beach to signify purity in the new year (we are essentially starting over) and good luck. I was informed in language class that many people accessorize with other colors, particularly in the selection of new undergarments (red is good to attract romance, yellow is for prosperity, green for good health, etc.). I’ll leave that to your imagination….. Another tradition is to throw flowers into the sea at midnight as an offering to Yemanja, the god of the seas in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble tradition. Street vendors sell flowers (as well as beer, funny glasses with “2011”, and other standard concert fare) lest you forget your good luck offering. There is something about jumping in the waves 7 times too, but confess I never quite figured out what that was all about and clearly had not drunk enough to just join in for that practice.
This event attracts people from all walks of life; young, old, rich, poor, foreigners and Brazilians all coming together to have a good time. Among the “visitors” were probably a dozen or so passenger cruise ships anchored off Copacabana beach so the guests could get a great view of the fireworks display (and the cruise line was undoubtedly spared the cost and risk of putting on their show!).
Safety is ensured, to the extent possible, by something like 15,000 police and security personnel patrolling Copacabana. I am generally not a big fan of crowd scenes but this was truly orderly and a genuinely fun time.
The highlight was an incredible fireworks show and free concerts on the beach. This year there were 11 barges offshore from Copacabana from which the 20 minute fireworks show was launched. We had a blanket on the beach and a bottle of champagne and had the joy of watching the fireworks explode overhead while sipping on the bubbly and making new friends. If these links work they will take you to some videos of the fireworks show.
Watch video of the 2010 / 2011 midnight fireworks show on Copacabana Beach:;
http://www.rio-de-janeiro-travel-information.com/Rio-de-Janeiro-Travel-blog.html (go to 1/1/11 for 18 minute video from the local tv station)
Otherwise here are some quick stills.
In addition to the fireworks display, there were 4 stages set up on Copacabana beach with entertainment starting at 6 p.m. and going until 3 a.m. or so. As the Samba groups did not come on until 2 a.m. we stayed around and partied on the sand until way, way, way past my bedtime. We saw the Beija Flor samba group and had our first peek of what we will see in the great spectacle that is Carnaval. At the main stage in front of the Copacabana Palace a highlight was the unveiling of the new Olympic logo for the 2016 Olympics that will be held in Rio.
The Rio 2016 symbol resembles three figures - yellow, green and blue - embraced at the arms and in a triple hug. The logo uses the colors from the Brazilian flag.
Sadly, we will not be here for the Olympics but have no doubt that Rio will put on an excellent production!