RÉVEILLON, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

How do you spend the New Year? Usually, it is dinner with family then watch fireworks as everyone counts down the seconds to the end of the year. But in South America millions of people dressed in white party the night way along the shores of Copacabana Beach. In Brazil, families, and friends gather for a traditional New Year’s Eve meals, but at the stroke of midnight…BOOM! Réveillon.

Réveillon in Rio de Janeiro probably is one of the best New Year’s celebrations. Every year on the first of January, Brazil attracts as many as two million people ringing in the New Year on the famed sands of Rio’s Copacabana Beach. Rio de Janeiro is famous for its unforgettable New Year’s Eve having a mix of tradition and exciting festivities. The amazing fireworks, enticing traditions and incredible setting of the beautiful beach all make Réveillon as one of the world’s most spectacular ways to celebrate Ano Novo or New Year.

Réveillon got its name from the French meaning a long dinner, and possibly a party being held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Before the clock strikes midnight, the festival is mostly a family affair with family and friends gathering for foods and drinks. On this night though they do not eat chicken, because it scratches backward without moving forward when feeding or eating. For them, the first day of the New Year should be about forwarding motion not backward.

After dinner people will then start to make their way to the beach where there are several stages to choose from. Non-stop entertainment is programmed starting from 6 pm right up to the wee hours of the morning until the sun rises. There is a four-mile-long stage showing different kinds of entertainment like dance and music. Live performances are staged to entertain but at midnight a mesmerizing fireworks set-up will be on display.

Also one of the most distinguishing part of Réveillon is the all-white dress code. The local custom believes wearing white will bring them good luck. White symbolizes purity, peace, and renewal. They believe it will appease Iemanjá, the goddess of the sea. When the fireworks have ended, you will see the crowd going to the sea. Simply follow them, jump seven waves and with each jump make a wish. Rio and life in Brazil are tied to the ocean. They will also put floating candles in honor of the Goddess of Water Iemanjá offering a magnificent view of the sea.

The Réveillon festival is a common celebration in New Orleans as well and is deeply rooted in the spiritual beliefs of the African religion just like in Brazil. They pay proper respects to the goddess Iemanjá being the ruler and protector of the sea.  During the New Year festivities, they pay respects by wearing white clothing and offering white candles and white flowers mostly lilies, rice and perfume to the sea, all of which can be purchased from the local vendors. These are considered sacrifices for the goddess Iemanjá. One can also send prayers on the water through little boats with candles. The legend says that if they make it out to sea, Iemanjá is pleased but if they return, better luck next year. This is Réveillon festival ritual a New Year’s celebration and also a celebration to honor her majesty Iemanjá.

Reveillon or Ano Novo in Portuguese is an exciting mixture of tradition and culture. Many families celebrate with a New Year’s meal in the comfort of their own home. While it is good, it still can’t beat being on the beach welcoming the first day of the year.