New Year's Eve is one of Rio de Janeiro's most important celebrations, second only to Carnival in popularity. It attracts people from all over the world, and Brazilians from all states. The festivities are concentrated in Copacabana, attracting over2 million people every year. Stages are set along the beach with live music shows starting at 8 p.m., featuring everything from traditional Carnival songs to rock and dance.
The fireworks festival starts at midnight, with the turning of the year. The fireworks stations are located in boats anchored in a safe distance from the beach. They last about 15-20 minutes. Other than the spectators in the stand and buildings along the beach, the presence of giant cruise ships offers travelers a different point of view. For safety reasons the city no longer allows the fireworks cascades at Forte de Copacabana.
In the years of 2008 and 2009 yet a new attraction was added. A giant Ferris Wheel was installed at Forte de Copacabana, and with digital effects and images of Rio this is where the countdown happened. The parties with DJ's along Ipanema Beach, on the other hand, have been canceled for good. Despite their growing popularity, or rather, because of it, the number of revelers became simply to big for the narrow beach strip.
2010 was a very special celebration. Rio has been confirmed as the host city for 2016 Olympics, the World Cup will happen in 2014... Hotels booked up earlier than on previous years, the weather was hotter than usual. And despite the pouring rain that happened on December 30 the sky cleared up for the turn of the decade. We were lucky to be there, and we would like to share with you this HD video. Enjoy!
Things to do and see
If you are coming for New Year's Eve you must learn some of the traditions. The first one is that people wear white for the party. This is considered the lucky color, so deal with it even if you don't think you look good in white. You may add accessories in other colors: red is good to attract romance, yellow is for prosperity, green for good health, and so on. Black is not the right color to wear, no matter how fashionable it may be.
A lot of people bring flowers, and throw them in the sea before midnight. This is an offering to Yemanja, the deity of the seas. Some people prefer to give her beauty kits, complete with facial powder, lipstick, soap... They are available for sale at Candomble shops and come in a small wooden boat painted white and baby blue. This is more of a party to thank than to ask for blessings.
Bring a bottle of champagne to pop at midnight. Some people shake the bottle and spray some champagne around. Don't be a grouch, nobody will complain - it's considered good luck. A cheaper bubbling alternative is cider, and you are at the risk of going back to your hotel feeling like an apple orchard.
So here's the small checklist: wear mostly white, forget designer gear that doesn't agree with spilled drinks, sand and sea water. Wear sensible shoes that will give you support and protection, keep your feet dry. If you go for flip-flops keep an eye for broken glass.
Where and for how much?
New Year's is a party where everybody is welcome to celebrate. Walk along the beach and you will run into socialites, working class people, transvestites, children, seniors, couples, teenagers, it seems that all tribes mingle in peace. The logical thing to do is watch the fireworks outdoors, from the beach or the beach lanes that are closed to cars.
You can enjoy a delicious dinner before the party at any of the restaurants along the way if you are coming from Ipanema or Leblon. Even in Copacabana, restaurants usually keep a special New Years menu with a fixed price that may be affordable. Prices will skyrocket if you choose a restaurant with a view to the beach. The party at the Copacabana Palace is one of the most elegant, but all other beachfront hotels offer buffets. Book ahead as the capacity is limited.
As celebrations revolve around Copacabana and traffic can be very slow, plan your after-hours at some club in a walking distance. Some of them will give you plastic bracelets so that you can watch the fireworks and come back. Tickets may include drinks or other benefits. Breakfast is also served since very early at better hotels, and in addition to the traditional fare, prices may include a last flute of champagne if you're still in the mood.
Plan your trip ahead, as it is not that easy to find an air ticket in the last minute. Hotels in Rio raise their rates for New Year's, and offer their rooms in prepaid packages, including a predetermined number of mandatory nights. Try to book as early as you can, or you will be stuck with the more expensive options. The photos below will give you an idea of what to expect. Enjoy!