Brazil has a wide range of diverse holidays and seasonal celebrations. Some of them are religious, others public, and some regions have their own traditional festivities. Carnival is the best known, but some of the others help tell the fascinating story of Brazilian culture and traditions. These are the most popular and best known holidays in Brazil.
Tiradentes, the freedom fighter
Joaquim José da Silva Xavier is one of the most famous figures in Brazilian history. Known as Tiradentes ("The Tooth Puller"), because of his work as a dentist, he fought for Brazil's independence from Portugal in the 1800s and became a national hero. The uprising he organized was unsuccessful, but his efforts are recognized to this day. Tributes to him are all over the country, in statues, monuments, street names and there's even an entire town named after him, in southern Minas Gerais.
And, of course, he also has his own national holiday, on April 21. National holidays, by the way, are an excellent opportunity to enjoy Brazil like a true Brazilian. This is when people from the big cities escape to the beach, the mountains or wherever they can get some R&R. At tourist-friendly locations, everything will be open during the holiday, as that is when most locals get a chance to travel. But try to plan ahead, because holidays such as Tiradentes are very busy times for hotels and airline companies.
São João, a very Brazilian tradition
Every June, people all over Brazil, especially those in smaller towns in the Northeast, celebrate Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony, and Saint Peter. Known as the São João festival, or Festa Junina (June Festival), these festivals combine faith, food, and music. The theme of the celebrations is to celebrate the rural Brazilian lifestyle. Revelers wear straw hats, plaid shirts, and floral dresses, while eating some of the traditional São João party foods.
Salty and sweet dishes made from corn and peanuts are common. Mix cachaça, ginger, cinnamon, and sugar together, and you've got quentão, a warm punch which is always present at Festa Junina, along with mulled wine, known locally as vinho quente. Every Festa Junina needs its own bonfire, both for decoration and for warmth. After all, Brazilian winter starts in June, so the heat from the embers is very welcome indeed.
Another national holiday perfect for traveling in Brazil is September 7, the country's Independence Day. With Spring just around the corner, the weather is usually pleasant, so going to the beach is a possibility. The holiday celebrates Brazil's independence from Portugal, which happened on September 7, 1822. Dom Pedro, prince of the Portuguese royal family, decided to declare Brazil no longer a colony. He became Emperor Pedro I and inaugurated the historical period known as Imperial Brazil. In Brasília and other large cities, there are military parades that honor Pedro I and the Brazilian national symbols, such as the flag and the army.
Farroupilha Day, celebrantig local heritage
This holiday remembers another independence attempt in Brazil. The Farroupilha Revolution (often translated as the Ragamuffin War) took place in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in 1835. A group of rebels that did not agree with the imperial government fought with the national forces on September 20 of that year, leading to a ten-year war to separate Rio Grande do Sul from the rest of the country.
In 1845, the secessionist troops surrendered. Now, this holiday is a celebration of the culture of the gaúchos, the natives of Rio Grande do Sul. Street parades, festivals, camps, shows, and other activities celebrate the holiday. September 20 is a local holiday, but people from all over the country travel to Rio Grande do Sul to enjoy the festivities and eat the famous gaúcho barbecue. You can't miss the ribs at Harmonia Park, in Porto Alegre, broiled for 12 hours in a ground fire.
Black Consciousness Day
November 20 is dedicated to recognizing the massive contribution African-Brazilians have made to the country. Known as Black Consciousness or Black Awareness Day, this holiday is relatively recent, although it is not yet nationwide. The states of Amazonas, Amapá, Mato Grosso and Rio de Janeiro have made it official, as well as the city of São Paulo and other municipalities. On this date, national hero Zumbi dos Palmares is remembered.
He was a leader that fought against the enslavement of African-Brazilians and created a community where black people were free, the Quilombo dos Palmares. If you want to experience African-Brazilian culture and history, visit Salvador's Pelourinho, a colonial landmark protected by UNESCO. This is where slaves were punished. Now, it is a vivacious and colorful neighborhood.