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If Only For New Year's Eve, Brazilians Wave Bad Luck Goodbye


There are few bigger New Year's Eves parties than the one on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has had a very tough year economically, but a huge crowd gathered on the famous sands last night, hoping for better luck this year. NPR's Philip Reeves was there.


PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: The sky's very dark, except for the occasional big flash of lightning, but the beach is lit up by these huge spotlights. And there are lots of people milling around, people sitting in deckchairs next to big hampers of food and drink. On the ground just in front of me, there's a young couple wrapped in each other's arms, and they appear to be asleep. A lot of little kids running around in the sand, playing in the sand. There are lots of people dressed in white.


REEVES: A young woman clad in a long white dress with flowers in her hair has just rather gingerly walked up to the water's edge. And she has a hand a big white flower, and she throws it into the waves. This is an offering to the goddess of the oceans, part of a New Year's tradition that brings together African religious culture with Brazil's Roman Catholicism and other religions here. And lots of people have been doing that this evening - wearing white, tossing flowers into the seas - in the hope that this will bring good fortune in the year to come.


REEVES: The fireworks have begun, which means it is now 2017 in Rio de Janeiro on Copacabana Beach. They say they've reduced the number of fireworks this year and the duration of this show because of an economic crisis here, but it looks pretty incredible to me.


REEVES: There's another tradition here. The new year has just dawned, and a whole load of people, me included, have walked into the sea up to about our ankles. And every time a wave comes in, they jump up once. And then another wave comes, and they jump up again. And every time they jump up, they make a wish, and they do that seven times.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking Brazilian Portuguese).

REEVES: What is your name please?

BLENDA BORGES: Blenda - Blenda Borges.

REEVES: You just went in the water there, and I saw you jumping up and down seven times. Do you mind if I ask you - I know it's a secret, but what generally did you wish for?

BORGES: Money, peace, love, hope - everything that I think - that is good.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Copacabana Beach. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.