Celebration Brazilian style.
Brazil is much in the news at the moment of course, because of the football, so it is interesting for me to see what other people are saying about Brazil now that I live here. But, for this post, I thought I would say a little more about parties (festas in Brazil) because I have recently been to (another) one here.
I have referred before to the fact that the cultural importance of Festas seems much higher here than in England, for example, and there is a special business area dedicated to all things “Festa” – venues, catering, entertainment, and so on, down to plastic plates and printed serviettes. Anything you can think of in relation to a party and there will be a business opportunity for someone at some scale.
The recent party was a fifteenth birthday party for the daughter of a cousin and this seems especially important for girls and is something that will be planned, literally, for years ahead, by parents anxious to give their daughters the best possible. For many (if not most) parents this will require some considerable period of saving up, or spending with a long commitment to paying back bank loans. And, just a brief aside here, the cost of borrowing from banks here in Brazil is usurious. To pay 7% interest is not unusual and it can be higher, too.
Only 7% I hear you say, that doesn`t sound too bad. It does when you realise I mean 7% PER MONTH! It is possible to get a lower rate if you are employed by the public sector and you can borrow, perhaps at 3% per month and the loan payments will be taken directly from your salary before you get your monthly money. On the other hand if you miss paying your credit card payment you will end up paying something like 17% per month. Also, most banks would be quite happy to give you an overdraft facility without you asking for it – so they will show you that you have, perhaps, five or six thousand pounds worth of facility….but beware, if you use it you may end up paying 10% for the privilege! The trouble is the banks do not pay out as much in interest on your savings! No surprise there then. But, back to the party…
Generally a party will be held in a “party venue” which will require payment, then you will have to arrange catering, perhaps for over a hundred people. This will normally consist of “salgados” or savouries – each table full of people will get one or two plates of bite-sized nibbles which will be continually filled by the several waiters/waitresses. They will also bring trays of additional nibbles and you take one or two according to taste, then a little while later a different taste is provided. At the recent party the next things to come around were small dishes with a mini-portion of what would normally be a main dish, so a small helping of rice with prawns in sauce, then another small dish with rice and stroganoff. They will keep coming around as long as the portions last.
The same applies to drinks. Beer, “refrigerante” (fizzy drinks) or water will keep on coming as long as required. So, there is a lot of washing up going on in the kitchens – and we have not got to the “doces” (sweets) yet. At some parties you may be expected to help yourself to sweets but at this one they were brought around on little dishes and you could, of course, have more than one. Copious quantities are generally anticipated by guests at good parties! One curiosity at many parties, particularly those for young children`s birthdays, is that some sweets such as chocolate mousse or a blancmange type of sweet is that it will be served in tiny plastic cups – not even as big as an egg-cup! – with an even tinier spoon. I am not sure whether the origin is in the “child`s helping” size or whether it is a consequence of catering on a small budget yet being able to offer variety?
The posher the party the more likely it will be to have photographer`s present, quite often both still and video photography. And at this recent party the photographers had been commissioned in advance to take pictures of the birthday girl, both still and moving, to play from a DVD onto a screen as the party is going on. So I am fairly confident that part of the cost of this party would be two or three new outfits for the birthday girl to be photographed in.
And talking of clothes, there is an expectation that any self-respecting 15 year old girl will want to look as much like a princess as possible, so there will be at least one party dress. In our recent case the birthday girl had a flouncy pink “princess” dress at the beginning of the party, which then turned into a shorter (yet still flouncy) dress for dancing in (cost of the DJ and lights to factor in here of course!) and THEN, at the end of the evening she went off to change into the final dress of the day which was a long white “wedding dress” type of dress, along with tiara and all (actually she had been wearing the tiara all evening to be fair!)
Once you add in the posh dress for Mom and the new suit for Dad and the white “princess” dress for younger sister, new clothes must have been quite a cost factor at this party. I have to say it was a cost factor in our house, too, since Fatima “needed” a new dress to wear – oh, and new shoes, too, of course. Social dress is certainly a particularly Brazilian cultural phenomenon in its gradations. I know we get dressed up and smartly dressed to go out in the UK but things seem a lot more relaxed there, than they are here, in terms of comparative expectations.
Then, there will be the presents for the guests – little paper carrier bags for the ladies with a lipstick a nail varnish and cotton wool pads for removal of same. And for the fellows a cellophane bag with a plastic glass, printed with party girl`s name. I have been to parties for young children where the giveaway is a magnetic fridge sticker with pictures of party child on, or a photo frame, again with a picture of the central character on it.
We enjoyed the party – thanks for asking