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The Beautiful, Unusual Way Brazil Rings In The New Year

From Carnival to the World Cup, Brazil has a reputation for going big on celebrations — and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Known as Réveillon, Brazilians and tourists alike gather on the country’s beautiful beaches to bid farewell to the year gone by and celebrate new beginnings. Some two million people gather on Rio’s famous Copacabana Beach alone, dancing to live music and fireworks well into the early hours of the morning.

But for many Brazilians, an important part of the New Year’s celebration has its roots in Candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian religion brought to the country by slaves from West Africa. Descended in part from the Yoruba religion, Candomblé devotees believe that gods and goddesses known as orixas have dominion over both nature and human beings. The end of the year is also devoted to celebrating one of the most important goddesses.

Yemanja is goddess of not only the sea, but all waters that run to it; she is also the goddess of motherhood, education, and physical and mental health, according to Maria Manuela, a devotee who runs the Candomblé: World of Orixas blog.

During the Festival of Yemanja, people honor the goddess by wearing her colors — white, silver, and blue — and bringing flowers and other offerings to the beach for her. Some even carry a statue of her to place near the water. Finally, people send their prayers and desires out on little boats, asking Yemanja to help make them a reality in the New Year. Some people believe that if the boats travel out with the current, the goddess is pleased and their prayers will be answered. If the boats return, however, it means a devotee’s petition as been rejected.

Ahead, gorgeous images that capture the beautiful Festival of Yemanja and Réveillon.

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