How Is Christmas Celebrated In Brazil?

credit: Peter Parker

Christmas is a joyous celebration in Brazil, packed with laughter, excitement, and tasty food! Children re-enact the birth of Jesus, families prepare meals, and Santa Claus makes his round of deliveries! There’s a lot of Christmas excitement to explore in Brazil, so let’s discover as much as we can!  

Brazil celebrates Christmas with a midnight mass on December 24, called Missa do Gallo. It involves hymns, prayer, and bible scriptures. They eat at around 22:00 and celebrate until midnight’s fireworks display, after which they continue celebrating. December 25 is a slow day of recovery.

How Does Brazil Celebrate Christmas?

Brazil’s Christmas festivities begin on December 24, when they attend a midnight mass called Missa do Gallo (Rooster’s Mass). It derives its name from a legend that describes a rooster crowing at midnight to announce the good news of the birth of Jesus. 

People usually dress smartly, with women going for stylish hair and make-up to look their best. The occasion comes to life with celebratory hymns, prayers, and reading of bible scriptures.

At around 22:00, families enjoy traditional, homey meals with their loved ones. It’s common to have turkey (peru), king cake (bolo-rei), salted cod (bacalhu), and French toast (rabanada). 

Conversation and memorable times flow late into the night, thanks to great hearty food, drinks, and buzzing music. The Missa do Gallo is a beloved tradition many Catholics in Brazil cherish. It allows them to express their faith and give thanks for the blessings in their life.

After the mass, the city skies become ablaze with illuminating fireworks that color the sky in the shapes of Christmas trees. People continue to celebrate the festivities afterward.

Some people in Brazil prefer to celebrate outdoors, in the streets or on the beach, because Christmas happens in the middle of summer. They may enjoy a refreshing drink, a cool dip in the water, and tasty churrasco (a juicy steak barbecued over a charcoal or wood fire).

December 25 is a slow day, with activities winding down and people recovering from a lively night of dancing, singing, and joyous mingling.  

What Is Christmas Like Throughout December?

December 24 and 25 is certainly a flood of excitement, but Brazil’s Christmas spirit starts at the beginning of December. Christmas in Brazil is a festive and colorful occasion, as people decorate their homes, streets, and public places with various lights and ornaments.

Homes and churches in Brazil host Nativity Scenes (Presépio), which are plays that illustrate the birth of Jesus. Interestingly, the Brazilian versions include a shepherdess and a woman who attempts to abduct Jesus!

Another popular kind of play called The Shepherds (Os Pastores) is a humorous play that follows the journey of shepherds looking for Jesus. The devil attempts to thwart their plans with temptation, but they ultimately prevail, thanks to the help of the Archangel Michael.

Do Kids In Brazil Believe In Santa Claus?

Children in Brazil believe in the same red-robed and white-bearded mystery man as the rest of the world. They call him Papai Noel or Bom Velhinho (Good Old Man).  

While he’s traditionally inclined to enter through chimneys, the Brazilian Santa prefers to avoid getting stuck in chimneys! Instead, he asks that kids leave a sock near a window, and he’ll gladly exchange them for a present.

How Do People Exchange Gifts In Brazil?

Christmas celebrations in Brazil involve friends, family, extended family, and all the other invitees! Buying everyone a gift quickly becomes impractical, so Brazil prefers the Secret Santa method.

Each person gets assigned a person, and they only need to purchase a gift for that person. This way, everyone still gets a gift. Brazilians call it Amigo Oculto or Amigo Secreto.

Both terms are acceptable and understood to refer to “Secret Santa .”There is no difference between them, except for regional preferences. Some parts of Brazil use one term more than the other.

When it comes to unwrapping presents, most people like to play a guessing game to add to the excitement of the occasion. It involves the gift-buyer describing the person for whom they bought a present. Everyone tries to guess the gift-receiver before they receive their present.

Another method, although less common, is for the gift-buyer to use a pretend name (apelidos) when purchasing their gift. On December 25, everyone revealed the gift-buyers. This method is rare because people enjoy the excitement of the guessing game.

What Christmas Food Do They Serve In Brazil? 

Christmas time is a time of family, friends, and, to the detriment of some, overeating! Brazil is no different, with food and feasting being one of the celebration’s highlights.

Brazil’s Christmas cuisine consists of multiple influences spanning across different cultures. There’s a piece of Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Germany represented at the table.

The typical Christmas dinner has rice, potatoes, vegetables, Chester, or turkey. Chester is quite the competitor to turkey, with more meat around the thighs, more nutritious protein, and less fat. Cod and lasagne are not strangers to Brazilian Christmas tables, either.

Towns in the south have the most significant German influence and often serve stollen – a fruit-bread pudding containing dried or candied fruits, nuts, spices, and smothered with powdered sugar. Other parts of Brazil enjoy the Italian sweetbread and fruitcake, called panettone.

What Christmas Decorations Are Popular In Brazil?

A big part of getting into the spirit of Christmas comes the decorations scattered across the country. Let’s look at how Brazil decorates its everyday surroundings during Christmas.

Christmas Trees

Many Brazilians like to decorate their homes with artificial Christmas trees, as natural ones are not readily available. They adorn their trees with shiny baubles, tinsel, and eye-catching fairy lights. Some people also decorate their plants and palm trees with attractive ornaments that match the Christmas theme.


Vibrant lighting is a common sighting among homeowners in Brazil because it helps them set a cheerful atmosphere. In fact, some neighborhoods hold competitions to see which household has the most impressive light show!

The large cities install lights in public squares, parks, and bridges to remind residents of Christmas. Rio de Janeiro proudly announces its Christmas spirit with a gigantic floating Christmas tree on the water yearly.

So grand is the tree that it set a Guinness World Record in 2007 as the largest floating Christmas tree in the world. It measured 278 ft, 10 in (85 m) tall, and set the sky ablaze with 2.8 million micro lamps that people could see 22.88 mi (37 km) away.

Garlands And Wreaths

People in Brazil adorn their doors and windows with garlands and wreaths made of flowers, ribbons, bows, and green branches. Some creative people also attach candies, nuts, and fruits for a more earthy feel!