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Saturday, April 13, 2024

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Monday, April 8
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Tuesday, April 9
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In Print: On News Stands Now


by Tumbleweed Smith

Brazilians have a wonderful way of celebrating the beginning of a new year. They dress in white, go to the beach, jump seven waves, bounce up and down on one foot and throw white gladiolas into the ocean. It is a beautiful sight. We felt special to get to witness it. We heard about the unique celebration while staying at Cibolo Creek Ranch near Marfa. A group was there from the Guggenheim Museum in New York. One member of the group was from Brazil and when we told her we were going to be in Rio over New Year's Eve she just bubbled and started telling us about the custom. We made sure to pack some white clothes especially for the occasion.

We were staying at the Sheraton, one of the few ocean front hotels in Rio de Janeiro. It has a private beach. On the last day of 2012, we visited the statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. We returned to our room at the hotel to find a plastic see-through bag containing a bottle of champagne and two champagne glasses. Alongside were two white t-shirts with 2012-2013 written on them. Way to go, Sheraton! What a wonderful surprise.

We heard about all the expensive parties going on in hotels and restaurants and asked the hotel concierge about them. We also wanted to know if the hotel had any outdoor plans to celebrate the New Year. He told us the hotel had planned a small fireworks show, but the big event was at Copacabana Beach, about five miles away. A million and a half people were expected to be there. The closest public beach to us was one called Leblon. Further down were Ipanema and Copacabana.

The cab ride to and from Copacabana was going to cost $400 and all the parties we inquired about cost around $500 per person and were all sold out. I was relieved. We ate dinner that night in the hotel's casual dining area. It was a cabana-type building, half under a roof and half open to the sky. While we dined on pizza and a salad, we saw people elegantly dressed in white going to a party at the hotel.

After dinner, we went to our room, put on our white t-shirts and shorts, grabbed our champagne and headed to the beach. It was about 11 PM. Access to the beach was closed at the time, so we lounged by the pool for a while. We asked someone passing by to take our picture and we took our own pictures of the champagne, the glasses and some chocolates we had saved from the night before. It was a sweet time.

At midnight, as crowds of people lined the balcony above the beach, there was a terrific explosion. The fireworks show had begun. It was elaborate and filled the sky with patterns of fire. Since the fireworks were lit very close to the people, tiny shards of flame sprayed the crowd. Made it really exciting. After the fireworks show people were free to go the beach. We could see the fireworks from Copacabana and other beaches. We joined the Brazilians in jumping the waves, making sure to leave the ocean walking backwards, which is part of the custom. We kissed, drank our champagne and experienced a New Year's Celebration that we'll remember for a long time.

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