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Rio de Janeiro Festivals

Christmas, Carnival, and so much more! Check out the numerous festivals Rio de Janeiro offers throughout the year.

The city hosts a wonderful set of local festivals. It's best to check what events are on before you arrive in Rio de Janeiro so that you can see as much as you can while in Rio de Janeiro.

Undoubtedly, the most famous event of the year is the Rio Carnival. This festival is known around the globe and sees millions of tourists flying down to join in the fun parades and dancing!


Rio partakes in Christmas (25th December) festivities the traditional Christian way by decorating Christmas trees with various embellishments.

Sometimes, tropical trees are used for decorations instead of conventional pine trees. Prayers are held in churches on Christmas Eve, and celebrations and fireworks are in 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

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

Flickr/Michel Temer/CC BY 2.0

Brazil's Independence Day

Brazil's Independence Day, which falls on 7th September, is a public holiday in Brazil. Rio natives celebrate independence day with great excitement and joy. Thousands of people gather 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 organisations with great pride. In the evening there are fireworks displays in the city square which are worth watching.

Flickr/cat's_101/CC BY 2.0

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 the summer season in Europe. The story behind this celebration is that 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 on top to announce his birth. Today, this festival is celebrated in honour of three saints, St. John, St. Anthony, and St. Peter, who were born in June. The festival is celebrated in churches, schools, and city squares by lighting bonfires, playing games, dancing and singing.

Rio Carnival
Flickr/Nicolas de Camaret/CC BY 2.0

Rio Carnival

The world-famous carnival is celebrated all over Brazil. However, Rio de Janeiro is known as the Carnival capital of the world. The festival starts on Friday and ends on Ash Wednesday.

A typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revellers, floats, and adornments from numerous samba schools from Rio (more than 200 approximately, divided into five leagues/divisions). The Samba Schools' Parade (Desfile das Escolas de Samba) is the high point of the carnival and takes place in the Sambadrome's Prof. Six special groups of samba schools perform each night. The winner of the Samba Parade is elected on Wednesday, and the Winners Parade is held on Saturday.

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 de Janeiro. Most famous among them is the celebration on the Copacabana beach, which attracts millions of tourists every year. The popular part of this event is the fireworks display, which lasts for about thirty minutes and watching the sparklers light up the night skies is an absolute delight. People throng onto the streets to enjoy the illuminations and witness the grand fireworks display.

Hotels, houses, restaurants and the whole city is lit up with decorations. Various shows, concerts and other entertaining events are organised to celebrate the new 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
chensiyuan/CC BY-SA 4.0

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.

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