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Brazilians Welcome The New Year At Big Beach Party



We are listening to the start of the year in Rio de Janeiro, a scene of what is billed as the biggest beach party in the world. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was there.

Hi Lourdes.


INSKEEP: Happy New Year to you. Hardship assignment?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, yeah, terrible. It was awful - some of the worst times I've ever had on assignment for NPR. It was my first Copacabana new year, and it was awesome. Twenty-four tons of spectacular fireworks were shot off these barges that were sitting off the coast. Basically, you just grabbed a beach chair and you sit on the beach with two million other people who show up as well to watch the show. It's amazing for people-watching. You know, Rio is a big destination for tourists as well, as you can imagine, and we met, you know, a few of them during Reveillon, as New Year's Eve is called here. Let's listen.

So tell me, what are you hoping for in the new year?

AVIKA PRETTIPAW: Fun, booze, alcohol, dancing - lots of dancing. Music.

AVICA NADEN: Hot guys.

PRETTIPAW: Yeah, if we find any.

FRANK VEERDS: I came to Rio because I knew New Year's Eve was going to be off the hook.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And how's it been so far?

VEERDS: It's been out of control. It's been a lot of fun.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter), Yeah. That was Avika Prettipaw (ph) and Avica Naden (ph) from South Africa, and Frank Veerds (ph) from Canada, having a good time on the beach.

INSKEEP: I was just making a list here. Fun, booze, alcohol - which apparently is different than booze - dancing, hot guys. They've got ambitions for the new year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter). They do. They were really aiming high, and I think they got what they wanted. It was pretty fun.

INSKEEP: So are there particular traditions associated with this celebration on the beach?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, there are. First of all, you have to dress in white. It's considered good luck, and it's a sign of peace and a nod to the sort of Afro-Brazilian religious traditions here. I was pretty surprised to see that everyone respected that. You also bring offerings to give to the sea goddess. These are flowers normally. So you have these - this beautiful scene of the beach sort of festooned with flowers. And then you're supposed to jump over seven waves and make seven wishes for the new year. A little aside - if you're looking for love, as our two South African women were, tradition holds that after jumping into the waves, the first person you greet has to be someone of the opposite sex for a fruitful new year.

INSKEEP: OK. Are there any hazards - safety hazards associated with, you know, going to the beach and drinking a lot and trying to jump over seven waves?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: No, Steve, no. No safety hazards, of course. What do you mean? You get drunk and then you jump into the water. It's a terrible night for lifeguards, as you can imagine. It's not a great recipe to have 2 million people on Copacabana Beach with lots of alcohol. It's a very, very busy night for them, one of the busiest nights of the year. There were also 2,000 cops working Copacabana last night - so a lot of security. And just as an aside - the armies of sanitation workers that are up on the beach right now. Every year, they pick up 400 tons of trash on New Year's Day. So not a great New Year's Day for them either.

INSKEEP: Although the start of a big year for Rio.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Huge year for Rio. This summer, the city will be hosting the Summer Olympics so you can be sure the city government's New Year's wish was for a smooth and peaceful Summer Games.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Rio de Janeiro.

Lulu, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you. Happy New Year. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.