We can learn a lot about our own Christmas traditions when we learn how it is celebrated in other parts of the world. Brazil's rich Christmas traditions brought over from Europe combine with indigenous foods and traditions to become a unique combination that makes Brazilian Christmas something to behold. From how gratitude is expressed during the season, to how Brazilians eat during Christmas, you might find a few bits of inspiration for coming up with your own Christmas traditions to pass on to your loved ones this season.
The Caixinha, or “Little Christmas Box,” is a Brazilian Christmas tradition that is all about celebrating the people who make our lives easier. On the outside, it is a simple box, usually made of cardboard, covered in Christmas wrapping paper and decorated in bows and ribbons, like any traditional Christmas present. The Caixinha is sort of like a festive tip jar, usually found next to a cashier’s station, or in restaurants. When one patronizes their business, one puts money in them as a little extra something for the holiday season that year.
The Thirteenth Salary
Another attempt to help out people who might not otherwise have enough, the thirteenth salary is an extra month’s worth of wages in December, often paid to domestic employees and other urban and rural employees. The thirteenth salary goes back to the 1960s, intended to help out the economy and to increase sales tax. It is usually paid once before November 30, and once after December 20, and may not be paid to them all at once.
We’re pretty used to nativity scenes here in the US – maybe you or someone you know has one in their home, and they’re becoming more common outdoors, as well, including inflatable nativity scenes. In Brazil, you’ll find them at peoples homes as well, but also in restaurants, and malls and elsewhere. In Brazil the nativity scene is called the Presepio, which comes from the Latin word for the bed of straw that baby Jesus is said to have slept on. The Presepio was introduced to Brazil by a Portuguese Friar in the 17th century.
Yes, we also have Christmas Eve, but in Brazil, the day before Christmas is a huge feast day. The day itself is often spent with friends, then the rest of the day after is with family and the giant meal that comes with the celebration. Brazilians typically dress up for the meal, which is served around 10 PM, and then the family stays up till midnight for a Merry Christmas toast, after which gifts are exchanged. Many Brazilian Christians also celebrate Midnight Mass, or Missa de Gallo.
In Brazil, you’re also likely to find a Christmas turkey, veggies and ham, as well as potato salads. Some other dishes seemingly unique to Brazilian Christmas are rice, cod and lasagna. Christmas desserts in Brazil range from everything from something like a German stollen, to an Italian pannettone.