Christmas is celebrated every 25 December and is regarded as one of the most important festive celebrations on the Brazilian calendar.
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While there is a strong borrowing of Christians traditions from Portugal, which Brazil was once a colony of, there are also influences from the U.S., from other Latin American countries, and from Brazil’s highly diverse immigrant ancestry.
December 25 is much like Christmas in other lands in many respects, however, there are some special ways that the holiday is celebrated in Brazil:
- Nativity scenes are put up in many churches, homes, and places of business. They are called in Brazil “presepios,” from the Latin “presepium” (meaning “bed of straw”) because of the straw bed on which the baby Jesus is thought to have been laid while in the manger.
- Plays, known as “Os Pastores” (“The Shepherds”) are extremely popular. In Brazil, there is a distinct version that prevails, wherein the shepherds and a “shepherdess” figure large. A gypsy woman also shows up at the manger and attempts to kidnap Jesus, and there are many unique twists in individual plays.
- Midnight masses on Christmas Eve are very commonly attended, even by those who rarely attend church throughout the year. The service is called “Missa do Galo” (“Mass of the Rooster”) because a rooster crows to announce its commencement. On Christmas Day, some also attend church in the afternoon.
- Workers are entitled to a “13th salary” in December, meaning they get paid twice as much that month. This is intended to boost the Christmas economy, and it is a decades-old tradition.