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December 10, 2010

Celebrating the New Year with Iemanjá

Looking for something to do on December 31? Head over to Rio de Janeiro and usher in the New Year with Iemanjá, goddess of the water, revered by the Umbanda and Candomblé religions of Brazil. The unofficial patron saint of Rio de Janeiro, Iemanjá grants good fortune and blessings for the New Year to people who offer her shiny jewelry, perfume and white roses or gladioli.

Ano Novo, also known as Reveillon, is the second largest festival in Brazil, luring between 2 and 3 million people to Rio’s beaches each year. The celebration includes fireworks over the ocean and bands playing music on huge stages along Copacabana beach. Along the sidewalk, artisans, fortunetellers and food vendors set up temporary stalls and flower vendors sell gladioli and white roses for Iemanjá.

The beach is lit with thousands of white candles set in horseshoe-shaped trenches and homemade altars to honor the goddess of the sea. In the hopes Iemanjá will grant wishes for the upcoming year, offerings of flowers, perfume and jewelry are brought to the beach for her and either tossed directly into the water or set to sea in wooden toy boats.

There’s still time to make it to Rio and usher in 2011 with a huge party—and a special beach tribute. It’s worth it to have Iemanjá on your side.

Do you have favorite New Year traditions you’ve experienced on your travels? Share with us in the comments section.

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Category: Languages and Culture, South America

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