29 December 2011

New Year's Eve in Brazil

I always romanticized the idea of spending New Year's Eve in Rio. I had only the vaguest notion of how Brazilians celebrated, something about dressing all in white, gathering at the beach and tossing flowers into the ocean in honor of somebody or other. Just thinking about it gave me a feeling of tranquility and peace. I wanted to join those celebrants, and I wanted to join them on Copacabana beach. Then I of course realized how allergic to crowds I am and how two million or more people might be a bit more than I could take. I began to understand that any "tranquility and peace" I might feel would be shattered by the six enormous sound stages that are set up along Copacabana beach, each stage dedicated to a particular musical style, none of them mine. It was without regret that early on I put the idea of "New Year's Eve in Rio" to rest.

So that left New Year's Eve in Búzios which, as it turns out, isn't too shabby. Our house is positioned in such a way that we can watch six or seven different fireworks displays going on all at once around our bay, including a spectacular private show put on by the owner of Cirque du Soleil, whose house is two or three to the right of ours. We wanted to share that remarkable advantage with friends, so Mark and I began a tradition of giving New Year's Eve parties. We've given five in all, with each year's turnout growing exponentially from that of the preceding year. Unfortunately, it's gotten to be too much to handle, so I think we've come to the end of our tradition. Besides the growing number of guests who — in the spirit of good will and holiday cheer — often brought friends, friends of friends and various hangers-on, there's the little problem of electricity. I mentioned in my post of this past Monday that the population of Búzios can swell to as many as 200,000 people during the holidays. Well, in order to prepare for their various celebrations, all of these 200,000 people go to their rooms and turn on their air conditioning and their hair dryers all at the same time. The electric company cannot sustain the surge. It's a rare year that we don't lose electricity, and one year I remember it not returning until the next day. Can't hear the doorbell. Can't play music. Can't turn on the stove. Can't see the way down the stairs. Can't have a party.

We don't yet know what we're going to do this year. People have been calling and feeling us out, but Brazilians like to make their plans at the last minute, so nobody's committing. One option is that we'll try some of the Brazilian traditions we've never tried before all by ourselves. Maybe at midnight we'll go down to our beach and "jump the seven waves" on our right foot, to invoke the powers of Iemanjá, goddess of the sea, so she can give us strength to face the coming year. Or maybe we'll eat the various foods you're supposed to eat at the stroke of midnight. Some say you're supposed to eat 12 grapes, one for each month, and try to internalize health, peace, love, harmony and prosperity. Others say it's pomegranate, cut in seven pieces, which you eat while holding seven seeds in your teeth. After that you wrap the seeds in white paper and keep them in your wallet all year. They say money just pours in if you do that. We've been told to eat pork for prosperity, lentils for money and walnuts to guarantee wealth and prosperity. (I see a theme here.)

Whatever we decide, it will include good food, good drink, and lots of flashlight batteries and candles. We'll probably dress in white, that's a tradition we've come to like. And if we have electricity, we'll get our annual kick from our "Guy Lombardo & his Royal Canadians — Live at the Waldorf Astoria" New Year's Eve CD. Speaking of which, here's Mr. Auld Lang Syne himself, wishing us all his last Happy New Year:

No comments:

Post a Comment