The United States, Spain, and Brazil may all have different languages, but there is one thing that these countries do have in common: they are predominately Christian. Brazil, like Spain, has a strong Catholic influence, but with many Evangelical missionaries, there is a large and ever growing Protestant population.
With this strong Christian presence, undoubtedly Easter is an important holiday. I’ve heard that Brazil has processions similar to those in Spain, but I don’t think that it is to such a high degree, nor did I witness any such event. In fact, my Páscoa was pretty tranquila. Other than going to church services and spending time with family, friends, and coworkers, it was a pretty normal weekend, but I did manage to learn about some certain traditions.
One of these traditions includes, of course, CHOCOLATE! Giving chocolate eggs to family and friends seems to be the rage here, and is almost mandatory. It is customary for boyfriends and girlfriends to exchange chocolate eggs for Easter, and these eggs can range in price from 20 R$ to as much as 500 R$! I saw a Lindt chocolate Easter bunny in the supermercado Pão de Açúcar for 494 R$. Yikes. Talk about expensive chocolate! I’d much rather have someone buy me a plane ticket to Buenos Aires or an awesome dress for that money, but still, it is a tradition and must be followed. I opted for the middle road Ferrero Rocher chocolate egg and believe it went over quite well.
Another food item that is common for the traditional Easter lunch with family and friends is bacalhau (Portuguese), bacalao (Spanish), otherwise known in English as codfish. This amuses me, because when I was in high school our class’s favorite Spanish word was bacalao (no reason really, it’s just a fun word to shout out loud), and now in Brazil I am frequently enjoying this pescado. Not only did I eat bacalhau for lunch at school on Friday, but I also ate it for a family Easter meal on Sunday. This traditional Portuguese dish is prepared with codfish (of course), onion, peppers, garlic, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and a vinegar and white wine sauce. It’s really tasty and worth trying!
Although I was enjoying chocolate and codfish (not at the same time), I was sad about missing out on the Easter baskets and egg hunts at home, so I decided to make my own! In Brazil I never found the plastic colored eggs that are widespread during this time of year in any Wal-Mart in the USA, so I improvised and created my own Easter egg hunt for my Brazilian “sobrinhos,” hiding wrapped chocolates from a Nestle box all over the house. When the three year old “sobrinha” woke up Easter morning, confused that I was the only one there and crying for her Grandma, I tried to help the situation and said, “Don’t worry! The Coelho da Páscoa (Easter Bunny) came! He hid chocolate for you!” She was slightly puzzled, and possibly a bit concerned that a rabbit had entered her home and placed chocolate around the room, but she calmed down and was excited to find the candy all over the place. A win-win situation. She stopped crying AND got chocolate, even if she thought that the strange Gringa in her house was a weirdo for telling her that a bunny was hiding candy. Hey, I had to introduce some American traditions here, right?
Feliz Páscoa, Feliz Pascua, Happy Easter!