Festivals in Porto Alegre

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Porto Alegre which means “Happy Harbor” is a sophisticated city on the banks of a vast freshwater lake. Most Porto Alegre Festivals are rooted in the city’s past as a Portuguese colony.

Carnaval (February)

The Carnaval in Porto Alegre owes its existence to the Portuguese who introduced a game which involved people throwing water, flour, and small wax balls filled with lemon-scented water at each other.

During the four days of revelry, King Momo, a carnival figure becomes the symbolic ruler of the city. A large street festival takes place in the park around the Parade Stadium (Samabodromo).

Ten pre-Carnaval parades are held in December and January by ten samba schools and there are plenty of parties.

Festa do Divino Epirito Santo (May)

This religious festival marks the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Jesus Christ’s apostles. Flags symbolizing the blessings of the Holy Ghost are carried through the town and from house to house to collect donations for the celebrations. People eat rice cakes and feed the poor according to the Portuguese custom.

Festas Juninas (June)

This is a midwinter harvest festival which pays tribute to St. Peter (June 29), St. Anthony (June 13) and St. John (June 24). People celebrate with music, bonfires, games, dances and fairs. While the custom is Portuguese, the food including corn-based dishes and baked sweet potatoes is native.

Festa de Lemanja (February)

This festival is held in honor of Lemanja, the Goddess of the Salt Waters. The roots of the festival lie in the voodoo-like Umbanda religion of Brazil which arrived here on slave ships from Africa.

The goddess, having taken on the Christian characteristics of St. Anne, Patron of the Sea, is light-skinned and fair-haired, but she wears white and blue, the colors of Umbanda.  She is invoked for a prosperous new year and thanked for past blessings.

On this day which begins with early morning fireworks, the beach is packed with people celebrating the New Year as well as Festa de Lemanja.

The Umbandan rites are fascinating to watch. Male and female priests dance in a trance, foaming at the mouth (reminiscent of voodoo rituals). People are encouraged to join in. While drummers beat out a hypnotic rhythm, the priestess takes the initiate by the hand and spins him around in a dance which grows steadily faster.

Much smoking, drinking and dancing is indulged in as the goddess is given to carnal pleasures. After sunset, wooden rafts loaded with jewelry, flowers, perfume, rice and champagne are sent out to sea.

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