The most famous party in Rio de Janeiro is New Year’s Eve. Yes, even more famous than carnival. Carnival is for the whole of Brazil, yet there is no better party than New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro. Millions of people flock to the Marvelous City to reminisce the year that has been and celebrate the new year that has arrived. New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is one big orgasm of happiness, where there is no difference between black and white, poor and rich or young and old. Everybody is just celebrating life, a thing Brazilians know to do pretty well and pretty intense. So, if you come to Rio for New Year’s Eve, it’s a great choice! Well done! But then what? Don’t look any further, here we have the Ultimate Guide for celebrating New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro.
How to get to Copacabana?
On New Years’ Eve traffic in Rio becomes chaotic. Forget about car, taxi, Uber and bus. The best choice tro travel around Rio this time of the year is the metro. Usually, the subway company sells special passes to be used on the New Years’ eve. The price for those are the same as you pay on any other day, but you must have one of these special passes. On New Years’ Eve, the subway stations are open until 5am and they advise you to use Siqueira Campos station map to get off or on the metro. There are two more stations, Cardeal Arcoverde is close to Copacabana Palace, and Cantagalo, that is close to posto 5. But be prepared for the lines to get in, so bring some beers and good humor to make a bit of fun while waiting for the metro.
Where is the best spot?
There is only one place you should go for New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro, and that is the same place where the other millions of people (around 2 million) go: Copacabana beach. There are parties in other parts of Rio de Janeiro, like Barra (getting more popular each year for locals), Flamengo or São Conrado. But it’s obvious that the one big celebration is held at the most famous beach of Brazil. Though in general it will be pretty busy anywhere in Copacabana, there are quite some differences in where to stay at the 4 kilometer long beach — open this map while reading. The busiest place will be in front of the historic Copacabana Palace, since there will be the main podium with the concerts. Basically from posto 2 to posto 4 (postos are the small white numbered buildings of the lifeguards at the beach). More quiet places are the beach of Leme (posto 1), or on the other side of Copacabana, at posto 5 and 6 (in Copacabana the postos run from 1 to 6). Also, it helps to arrive early, around 10pm, to get a good spot at the beach. Lots of people will arrive later, so it will be more busy on the streets than on the beach. Bring some cangas (the Brazilian sarong) and mark your territory with bags or chairs. It will help to maintain your space until midnight. Our best spot would be posto 5 and 6, since this gives you the possibility to get to Ipanema and Leblon rather quickly in case you want to visit one of the parties on the beach over there.
What to wear?
In general, most people in Brazil like to wear white for the New Years’ Eve — it’s a tradition, based on an African ritual. During this time of the year, Brazilians choose the color of their clothes according to the meaning of said colors. White means ‘peace’ and it’s the most used color every year. Check the meaning of the other colors and pick the one that better fits with your wish for 2018:
- Yellow or Gold: Money
- Red: Passion
- Pink: Love
- Green: Hope
- Blue: Health
- Orange: Energy
This color tradition is also a big deal when it comes to underwear. So, choose your clothes and underwear wisely.
How to celebrate like a local?
Brazil has a lot of traditions during the whole year and special dates are very meaningful to them. It isn’t any different for the New Years’ Eve. If you spot a carioca doing something strange close to midnight, be aware it’s probably just one of the many rituals they follow. Here’s a few of them:
- Jump over 7 small waves (“pular sete ondinhas“): For every small wave you jump over, make a wish or be thankful for anything good that happened to you the past year. No one knows exactly how this tradition started, but it’s probably a way to thank Iemanjá (the goddess of the sea) for all the good things.
- Give presents to Iemanjá: There she is again. Iemanjá is a very popular goddess from Candomblé and Umbanda religions, which have their roots in North-African traditions. She’s the Queen of the Ocean and a beloved figure. It’s very common for people to offer her a few gifts during the days before the New Years’ Eve, like little small wood boats packed with perfume, candles, flowers, earrings, lipstick, mirrors and combs. Also, white flowers (Palma de Santa Rita) are thrown into the ocean as another way to thank her.
- Eat lentils: If cariocas don’t go to the beach to watch the fireworks and celebrate, they’re probably going to a party with family and friends. And, like good Brazilians, food must be involved. For the New Years’ Eve celebration, families prepare a feist pretty much like they do on Christmas: turkey, cod salad, french toast and much more. But there’s one special food people like to eat at midnight for luck: lentils.
How about safety?
We’re talking about Rio, so safety is always important. During the New Years’ Eve, Copacabana Beach welcomes more than 2 million people to celebrate the beginning of a new year. With that many people at the same place, of course, there’s a big chance for an uproar. Even though there are more police in the streets, you need to be careful. Try not to bring anything with you of value you may not need. Sure, you will want to take a lot of pictures and message your loved ones, but be aware of your surroundings when using a phone or digital camera. Try to avoid the use of backpacks and try to keep your pockets safe of pick-pocketers.
What is the program?
This year the government made New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro a focus point for extra celebrations. First of all, after two years of decreasing the number of minutes of the traditional fireworks in Copacabana (from 20 minutes to 16 to 12 last year) due to the crisis, this year we will see an increase: 17 minutes!! No, the crisis is not over yet, but we will get five more minutes of breathtaking fireworks at the most famous beach of the world. Spread over the beach there will be ten big screens to follow the fireworks – for the first time – with special drone images to add to the spectacle. For the musical program, there will a performance of the immense popular star Anitta. To get into the carnival vibe already, the samba schools of Portela and Mocidade, the winners of last year’s carnival parade, will close the celebrations.