If you’ve never had the pleasure of attending a festa in the ever diverse Brazil, you’re definitely missing out. Even if you’ve never had the opportunity to go to one, you’d surely know that Brazilians love to make up any excuse in order to throw a party. After reflecting on my short yet highly enjoyable time spent in Brazil thus far, I think that I can definitely conclude that Brazilians like to party as much as they love arroz com feijão.
Let me tell you why.
Within my first month here, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to attend certain kinds of festas (parties) around Rio de Janeiro. You’d probably guess that these parties would be on the street, dancing samba whilst sinking caipirinhas. As much as the caipirinha part is correct, think a little bit more formal. When you think formal, you would perhaps consider a wedding or even maybe a 21st birthday party, but here in the cultural melting pot of Brazil, it’s often the parties that we tend to forget that mean the most.
A typical Brazilian party calendar would go somewhere along the lines of:Churrasco, Festa Junina, Carnaval, Formatura (University graduation), Chá de bebê (baby shower), Bodas de Prata (25th wedding anniversary) and Bodas de Ouro (50th wedding anniversary).
After you’ve regained your breath after reading that hefty list that doesn’t even cover half of them, you could probably start to imagine how BIG parties here are, right? And when I say big, I mean big in the sense that your 15th birthday party may be frequented by a Funk(dance music from Rio de Janeiro) singer.
I was lucky enough to attend both a 1st and 15th birthday party which not only opened my eyes to a whole new world of how to get down and boogie, but also challenged my views on birthdays that might not seem “that important”.
It was love at first birthday cake from the moment I stepped foot into the highly anticipated 15th birthday party as all my senses were overwhelmed by the extravaganza that was put before me.
The lights that glistened off the sparkly décor, the formal attire, the intricate hors d’oeuvres brought around by the waiters and even the sophisticated seating arrangements finished off with personalised nametags. It really was going off.
I must admit that I was feeling a little apprehensive at first probably due to the sheer fact that I’ve never been to a 15th birthday party like so before. However, that attitude lasted a whole 5 minutes because who would not be a happy camper with enough food and drink to stash in your freezer for the next 10 years.
After my little ‘fat kid in a candy store’ moment, I couldn’t help but be in awe of literally everything. One thought that I could not toss out of my head was“I wonder how much this actually costed?”.
“This isn’t even one of the expensive ones I’ve been to”commented my aunty as after half-embarrassingly whispered in her ear.
I was told that a typical 15th shindig in Brazil would set you back around 20,000 RS (approx. 8,000 USD). Yes that’s right, $8,000.
I guess what makes it little less painful is that it is after all, a once in a lifetime occurrence for a Brazilian girl. After all (but only in a traditional sense), her father is officially presenting her to the world as a woman, so why shouldn’t she stamp her introduction to the world with a bang?
After having time to digest my surroundings and sinking yet another caipirinha, I really couldn’t help but notice the amount of adults that were there. I couldn’t think of the last time I had been at a teenagers birthday party where the adult to teenager ratio was skewed in the other generations favour. Anyway, with most of the drinks on offer being alcoholic, what kind of adult would even consider refusing the invitation?
Another interesting tradition surrounding the 15th is the fact that if the girl elects not to have a party, she might as well go to Disneyland in Florida instead. Yeah, because why not? This kind of 15th birthday party definitely trumps any kind of 15th I’ve ever been to, that’s for sure!
My wild Brazilian party safari didn’t end there as I was whisked to yet another party a few days later, but this time for a little Brazilian munchkin’s 1st birthday bash. The normalities of a children’s first birthday party were all there – a funny theme, elaborate costumes, lots of extended family and lots of food.
ow, the Brazilian version has a little bit a spicy twist. Think of all the normal characteristics plus the addition of (plenty) alcohol, an enormous array of salgadinhos, docinhos, performers and an incredible three-tier cake that’d make you think you were at a wedding instead. Oh, and I completely forgot to mention the rollercoaster that lined the roof of the building.
What I found most interesting was the breathtaking spread of lembrançinhas (little take-home souvenirs) covering the feature table at the front of the room. It had everything from intricately made sweets and perfectly frosted cupcakes presented in beautiful designs to fridge magnets and flowerpots with the birthday baby’s face displayed across it.
You couldn’t be blamed for thinking that either they must really love their kids or they are expecting a fairly decent retirement present from their little treasure.
Anyway, aside from the glitz and the glamour and decked out birthday cakes presented by a Brazilian Funk artist, you can’t deny that a lot of effort goes into a good old Brazilian festa. It’s just another beautiful trait that the Brazilian culture will always be proud to have.
….Except maybe the person that pays.