Carol Garborg, co-owner of Niteo Tours, spent her childhood in Brazil and gives us a look into what Easter in Brazil is like.
Until I was eighteen, I lived in Brazil, a country larger than continental US and covered with everything from wide swaths of sand dunes to tumbling waterfalls and thick rainforests. Besides the amazing cuisine (there is nothing like churrasco, Brazilian barbecue,or a steaming bowl of feijoada), what makes the country most special are the people. They welcome you into their home and somehow simultaneously make you feel like royalty and one of their family.
Most people know Brazil best for carnaval, a six-day party dominated by lavish parades, nonstop dancing and a lot of things I averted my eyes from. Many in my circle escaped to retreats outside the city until the craziness settled.
On noon on Ash Wednesday, though, streets throughout the largely Catholic country become quiet. Thus begins the crescendo through Lent toward the most important holiday of the year—Easter.
The Brazilian word for Easter, Páscoa, is similar to Latin for “Passover.” During Passover, the angel of the Lord gives life rather than death to those who have the blood of the lamb spread on their doorframe. In Brazil, Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the focus of the Easter celebration.
For both Catholics and evangelicals, going to church is an integral part of Easter. The two can hardly be teased apart. Many towns throughout the country host religious processions. That’s nowhere more true than in Ouro Preto. Thirteen baroque churches fill the streets of this former mining town. Together they host eight processions during Holy Week. For over three hundred years, the most elaborate takes place every Easter morning. People line the streets, and priests walk over a colored carpet of flowers and sawdust arranged into detailed designs.
One Easter weekend, I traveled to a friend’s house in the nearby city of Maringá. That night we had dinner at a gourmet pizza restaurant. Every few minutes, wait staff brought out a new variety of pizza. We ate corn pizza, sardine pizza, and I began to wonder, Where’s the sausage? Where the ham? Both are common types of pizza. Right after the banana pizza was served, I remembered it was Passion Friday and no meat was consumed anywhere. Silly me.
Because of this, the Easter meal usually features bacalhau, salt cod, sometimes layered with potatoes. Easter without bacalhau would be like eating Thanksgiving dinner without the turkey. It’s a must!
Stores everywhere have Easter eggs hanging from the ceiling. Depending on how tall you are, you might have to duck. Why? Well, this is the size of an Easter egg in the USA.
I’ll take an Easter egg from Brazil any day.
These enormous eggs often come stuffed with brigadeiro, a chocolate-y caramel candy made from sweetened condensed milk. My favorite!
Here’s the recipe.
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 T. butter
2-4 T. of baking cocoa (depending on how chocolatey you want it)
Place ingredients in a saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture pulls away from the end of the pan, forming a “ball.” Pour onto a greased plate and cool. Using greased hands, roll into small bite-size candies and dip in chocolate sprinkles.
Besides church and food, the other most important factor in at any Páscoa celebration is spending time with family. In no other nation, in my opinion, do families love their little ones more. Some might accuse Brazilian parents of spoiling their kids, but until kids are three or so they’re lavished with love—and chocolate eggs of course. Discipline comes a little later in life.
The celebration involves every generation. What I love most is that grandfathers talk to teens and teens sit across from parents and there’s a natural coming together that you don’t always see in other cultures.
All three things remain important to me today. But in the end, for me the heart of Easter is more than church tradition, great food, and even the family I’m “socially distanced” from this year. Easter, or Páscoa, is about celebrating Jesus’s powerful resurrection and reflecting on His love for humankind.
Happy Easter from all of us at Niteo Tours.