International Santas: Brazil’s Papai Noel Arrives in Style

Have you ever heard of Papai Noel? He’s a big part of Christmas celebrations in Brazil, where Christmas comes in the summertime. Unlike European Santas, Papai Noel sometimes dresses in a red silk suit, which is more comfortable in sweltering temperatures.

Papai Noel always arrives in style. Since 1996, Rio de Janeiro has displayed the world’s largest floating Christmas tree and light show. Children in Rio crowd into the Maracanã soccer stadium several days before Christmas. Papai Noel, who lives in Greenland according to Brazilian legend, makes a grand entrance. Children look up in the sky and see a helicopter growing closer and closer. When Papai Noel lands, he joins the children in an enthusiastic round of Christmas songs.

papai noel final

Illustration by Lucy Burrows

Papai Noel appears again on Christmas Eve. Since fireplaces are rare in Brazil, he enters and exits homes through the front door. Before going to bed, boys and girls in Brazil make sure to line up their shoes for the late-night visitor. When they wake up in the morning, they find candy and small gifts inside each shoe. Gifts might also be hidden around the house, so children know to keep alert on Christmas Day.

Since many families exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day can be very relaxed. It’s not out of the ordinary for a Brazilian family to plan a beach excursion as part of its Christmas celebrations.

Although Christmas festivities last until January 6, Papai Noel gets most of his work done by December 24. What does he do the rest of the year? You might imagine that he makes good use of his helicopter, joyriding around his neighborhood in Greenland, readying himself for next year’s visit.

Check out the videos below to see Christmas traditions in Brazil. In the first video, Papai Noel greets his fans at the Maracanã stadium. The second video shows the floating Christmas light show in Rio de Janiero.


Adam. “A Juxtaposition of Traditions – Christmas in Brazil,” Eyes on Brazil, February 18, 2011. Accessed December 5, 2011.

Cuddihy, Kevin, and Phillip Metcalfe. “Christmas’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Kris Kringles, Merry Jingles, and Holiday Cheer,” Potomac Books (2005).

Hollander, Malika. “Brazil: The Culture,” Crabtree (2003), 10-11.

Find more posts about: ,

blog comments powered by Disqus