“There’s gonna be millions of Brazilians filling Avenida Paulista—…”
“—drinking Skol beer, eating pop corn, skewers and burgers—…”
“—and singing along songs everybody knows but us.”
“There will be rows and rows of chemical toilets—…”
“—a sure sign a mass gathering is about to happen.”
“Banks will be boarded up—…”
“—we’d better withdraw cash today, actually.”
“And then São Paulo will be dead quiet on January 1 because it takes at least 24 hours to recover from New Year’s Eve.”
Yeah, we know the drill.
When we arrived, São Paulo was getting ready for New Year’s Eve, the first major party of the summer. The 2.8-km-long Avenida Paulista—the city’s main avenue—was already closed to traffic, and locals were taking selfies sitting or lying in the middle of it. As predicted, rows of grey chemical toilets were being set up in all perpendicular side streets and beer pallets were being unloaded.
Meanwhile, Mark got a haircut that made him look like a Brazilian football player. Feng also went to the barbershop for a shorter cut (“it’s hot!”). We made sure we had white t-shirts, a Brazilian tradition for New Year. We shopped for food, Feng bought firecrackers and I got takeout from my favourite São Paulo padaria—baked cod fish with veggies and rice.
On December 31, we were ready for the new decade and a fun party.
If you ever want to throw a big bash, stop by your local Brazilian embassy and beg for help—even regular overseas office representative will do a better job than any local professional event planner. Brazilians are the kings and queens of street parties. They work together to create fun and they put their heart into it. I spent two days watching volunteers, contractors, suppliers, police officers and entertainers making sure everything would be ready to handle the crowd. Free nighttime event, a lot of booze, people from all walks of life, one street in the middle of one of Brazil’s biggest city—sounds like a recipe for disaster, yet somehow it works. No matter how drunk they are, Brazilians stay courteous, kind and considerate.
We arrived on Avenida Paulista around 9:30 p.m. We walked from one end to the other watching the avenue getting more and more crowded, then we eventually found a spot fairly close to the stage. Sure enough, everybody was singing famous hits we had never heard about—but since São Paulo is also into rock music, we were able to shout out the lyrics to Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.”
2020 started with the usual fireworks.
We made our way back to the hotel around 1 a.m., showered and ate.
The music from the main stage on Avenida Paulista stopped around 2 a.m.…. then the drums (?) started and the party continued until sunset.
Feliz ano novo!