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Rio de Janeiro Festivals

Rio Carnival and many more! Check out the numerous other festivals that Rio de Janeiro has to offer through-out the year.

The city is host to a fantastic selection of local festivals. It’s best to check what events are on before you arrive in Rio de Janeiro, so that you can organise your time wisely while you are here.

Without doubt, the most famous event of the year is the Rio Carnival. This festival is known around the globe and sees millions heading here to join in the fun, laughter and dancing!



Rio partakes in Christmas festivities the traditional way by decorating the Christmas tree with various embellishments.

Sometimes instead of a conventional pine tree, tropical trees are used for decorations. Prayers are held in churches on Christmas Eve and celebrations and fireworks are on full swing till the advent of New Year. Along with the song, dance and music, many visitors land up at the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon to view the world’s tallest floating Bradesco Seguros Christmas Tree.

Umbanda – Festival of the Goddess of the Sea

Umbanda – Festival of the Goddess of the Sea

On 31st December every year, people of Umbanda religion gather at the Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema beach to honour the sea goddess, Iemanjá.

Since, Iemanjá is also the goddess of Carnal pleasures; followers have to satiate her cravings every year with celebrations marked by dancing, smoking and trance.

In the evening, decorated rafts with flowers, gifts and perfume and rice offerings on board, is set out in the sea to please and thank the goddess. Whether believers of Iemanjá or not, Rio locals join the celebrations to enthusiastically welcome the New Year.

Brazil’s Independence Day

Brazil’s Independence Day

Brazil’s Independence Day which falls on September 7 is a public holiday for all nationals.

Rio natives celebrate their independence with lot of excitement and joy. Thousands of people come out on the streets to celebrate their freedom from Portugal. Various kinds of embellishments such as balloons, streamers and banners decorate every nook and corner of the city.

There are parades in schools and the Brazilian flag is hoisted in all public and government organizations with great pride. In the evening there are fireworks displays in the city square which is worth watching.

June Bonfire Festivals (Festas Juninas)

June Bonfire Festivals (Festas Juninas)

Festas Juninas is a traditional festival celebrated in honour of Saint John.

Generally, this festival is celebrated during the winter season in Brazil and in summer in Europe. The story behind this celebration goes that the Saint John’s mother Elizabeth wanted to announce the arrival of her son. So she lit a fire and erected a pole with a doll placed on the top to announce his birth. Today, this festival is celebrated in honour of three saint’s St. John, St. Anthony, and St. Peter who were born during the month of June.

The festival is celebrated in churches, schools, city squares by lighting bonfires, playing games, dancing and singing.

Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival

The world famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival has a history of over two centuries old. Rooted in both pagan and religious festivals, the carnival is celebrated during the four days previous to the beginning of Lent. The Rio Carnival has always been the main attraction amongst tourists. Although Carnival is celebrated in many parts Brazil, it is Rio that is known as the Carnival capital of the world. The festival starts on Saturday and ends on a Fat Tuesday, with the beginning of Lent on Wednesday.

The Rio Carnival, as we know it today, was born in an attempt to make the festivities more “civilised” in the manner of European carnivals. Masks and rich costumes were introduced by the higher classes who paraded them up and down the city streets in their open carriages. The carnival also resembles parties with drinks, food and music that carry on throughout the day and into the early hours of the morning. People come out on to the streets and dance and sing, and all this finally concludes in what is known as the Samba Parade. People participating in the Samba parade are dressed in bright attires and Samba dancers perform the world famous Latin dance forms.

The samba originated from the blend of street music and African slave songs, and today its irresistible beats and rhythms have transformed it into the main dance of the Rio Carnival, and it is an inextricable part of the local identity.

Today the Carnival is the most popular and largest festival in the country, with four days of music and dance, taking place on the streets, as well as several costume gala balls held at the main hotels in the city.

The Samba Schools’ Parade(Desfile das Escolas de Samba) is the high point of the Carnival in Rio, and takes place in the Sambadrome’s Prof.

The Darcy Riveiro runway takes place during February 22nd and 23rd nights. The show starts at 9.00pm in the evening, lasting until the small hours of the following day. Six special groups of samba schools perform each night, having up to 80 minutes to march down the runway. The winner of the Samba Parade is elected on Wednesday and the Winners Parade is held on Saturday. It includes the six special group schools that made the best score, the winner of the access group, and other special attractions.

The Samba Schools’ rehearsals may also be attended, after paying a small fee. These often turn into parties and this is usually a good way to enjoy some samba music and a magnificent show.

New Year’s Celebrations

New Year’s Celebrations

Like the Carnival, New Year’s Celebrations are also a major part of the festivities in Rio.

Most famous among them is the celebration on the Copacabana beach, which attracts millions of tourists each year. One of the most popular parts of the event is the amazing fireworks display, which goes on for about thirty minutes. It is an absolute delight to watch the sparklers light up the night skies. People throng onto the streets to enjoy the illuminations and witness the grand fireworks display.

Hotels, houses, restaurants and basically the whole city is lit up with decorations. Various shows, concerts and other entertaining events are organized to celebrate the forthcoming year (and the end of the previous one). Ringing in the New Year with a midnight Champagne toast is considered to be lucky…so get involved!

Day of St. Sebastian Celebrations

Day of St. Sebastian Celebrations

The city of Rio celebrates the Day of St. Sebastian on 20th January every year. To celebrate the day of its patron, St. Sebastian, festive processions are organised. The parade passes through the lanes of Tijuca, the Center and the Glory. Rio has a public holiday on the day of the celebration and over a hundred agents are appointed to control the city crowds. This festival is celebrated in honour of St. Sebastian who became a martyr due to his faith in Christianity.

Recommended Activities

Plataforma Samba Show

Duration: 3 to 5 hours (approx.)

Rio de Janeiro Helicopter Tour

Duration: 1 hour (approx.)

Rio de Janeiro Combo Tour

Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

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