New Years Eve in Rio is, hands down, one of the best nights, it not THE best, I’ve ever had. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. The fireworks, the dancing, the music, the people. Everything. Just amazing. ¡Aye yo! I get chills just thinking about it.
To confirm/dispel a few preconceptions first:
- Yes, there were heaps of people.
- No, it was nothing like what you see on TV for Times Square. I thought it would be shoulder to shoulder, standing room only but that definitely wasn’t the case. We had our own space, a cooler, room to sit, and definitely didn’t feel crammed or crowded.
- Yes we were very cautious about our stuff, and no we weren’t pick-pocketed. I didn’t carry a purse and TJ only took the cash and hostel key for the night (he also brought his old phone but I didn’t take mine). We had a contingency plan if we got separated. All that jazz.
- Others did lose their stuff. We met one girl from Denver/Russia that said every single person in their group of 20 had their wallets stolen. A group of Aussies we were partying with thwarted an attempted pickpocketer (if that’s a word) and the cops arrested him immediately. Both still describe the night as absolutely amazing.
- The overall vibe of the whole crowd was celebratory, excited, and joyous. Everyone was there to have a great time and dance the night away!
For New Years Eve in Rio, it’s tradition to wear white as a symbol of renewal and regeneration. I bought a new white dress for $12 usd in Ihlabela for the evening (that got absolutely trashed. White + beach + all nighter = :-/). I was super concerned about the open back/lack of bra/white dress/forecast for rain, but went with it. When in Rio?
Our hostel hosted a little New Year’s Eve pre-party with champagne, sandwiches, and other treats and we met a few of our fellow hostelmates. Around 9pm, we stocked up a cooler and headed to the beach, just ~3 blocks away. The music was already playing but we were extremely early by South American standards. I kept expecting it to turn into Times Square crowds, and what’s is amazing is more people filled in, but it didn’t get that packed.
After about an hour and a half both the Aussie girl and I realized that nature would call, and we couldn’t ignore it all night. She went to check out the portapotty situation and deemed the lines unfathomably long. Ocean. White dress…When in Rio. (I was smart enough to to wear bathing suit bottoms). Our cautious exploration was thwarted by a stealth wave and we were both soaked. Neither of cared :).
About 15 minutes before midnight, everyone started moving toward the water. There are two traditions I learned about. One was to throw flowers into the ocean as an offering to the sea (vendors were selling these everywhere, some were shaped as crowns that women wore and others were large, beautiful singular flowers). The second was to jump over 3 waves to bring good luck all year. I did the latter.
The fireworks started at midnight and were shot off from barges just off the shore. It’s the most spectacular display I’ve ever seen (I hope this works):
After another 4 hours of dancing, drinking, and eventually full-on swimming we headed back to the hostel to change and on the way stopped for a healthy midnight snack…cheeseburgers. Between the 5 of us we ate 11. The workers were sure our Portuguese was wrong.
We changed into dry clothes and headed back to watch the sunrise. A lot of people actually slept on the beach (and by the looks of it they had planned to; some with blankets and a few others with tents).
As the sun rose everyone on the beach cheered in the new year. Feliz Ano Nuvo from Rio, everyone 🙂