Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Nossa Senhora makes the Children's Day

That's her on the back of the fire truck

Today was a national holiday in Brazil, in celebration of the country's patron saint, Nossa Senhora de Aparecida.

I've been curious about her since I arrived in Brazil. As far as saints go, she's got a pretty distinctive look, with her dark skin, her embellished, tent-like blue cloak and her golden crown. Coming to think of it, she's the only Saint I can name, apart from St George, whose dragon is a bit of a giveaway.

The story began with some fisherman in Guaratinguetá who were fishing for a feast held in honour of a visiting dignatory. They weren't having much luck, being that it wasn't fishing season, so they prayed for help. Lo and behold, their next haul netted a broken figurine of Jesus' mum, and after that they caught a whopping amount of fish.

These days the area around her first miracle has evolved into her namesake city and pilgrimage destination, Aparecida. I've passed the gigantic basilica there many times and have always been curious to stop there to pick up some Catholic kitsch, but we're always in a hurry. On her special day, October 12th, about 35,000 pilgrims attend mass there, inside what is the largest shrine in the world. You can watch all the jubilation and devotion live on the dedicated TV Aparecida. It looks like quite a party, if you're into crying, crowds, concerts, confetti and communion.

As it happens, the 12th October in Brazil is also Dia das Crianças, children's day. As if every day in Brazil isn't children's day, on this particular one you have to give your kids presents and be especially nice and patient, even when your four year old has taken to roaring like a lion when he doesn't get his own way.

The favorite moment of everyone's day in our household was when these two celebrations converged. We were just about to disappear down the metro station steps when a group of police motorbikes, sirens and lights a-go-go, cruised down Rua do Catete. They were the advance party for a fire truck carrying an effigy of Nossa Senhora de Aparecida, presumably to a church somewhere else in Rio. She in turn was followed by a cavalcade of over 500 motorbikes and motor-trikes of every possible description.

As the procession passed by in a cacophony of cheering, tooting and flag-waving, Catholic bystanders crossed themselves respectfully. Even I felt surprisingly moved, with pre-tear prickles in my eyes. As for my son, I though he would end himself with joy. Sirens, Police motorbikes, fire trucks and an army of friendly bikers! Nossa Senhora, you are clearly a mother who knows a thing or two about little boys.


  1. @Nikki
    Aside from looking for the cross, I could not identify St Andrew in a line up...nor could I tell you what he did.

  2. A FB friend lead me to your blog, it's delightful! I've lived for 20 years in NY e came back to raise the kids because Brazil is very children friendly. Oh, and there's no long winter time. I can see exactly where you come from with your stories!
    I also write a blog about motherhood and design (in portuguese), if you have time stop by for a virtual cafezinho!


  3. @flavia fiorillo
    Flavia, glad you enjoy the blog. Keep reading! I checked out yours too - beautiful. I became a follower!

  4. There r some things, many cnt buy,
    1 of such thing is our childhood,
    enjoy d spirit of childrns day…
    Happy Children’s Day!Childrens day sms

  5. “Children are the World’s most valuable resources
    and its best hope for the future”
    Happy Children’s Day

  6. Children Are Like A Wet Cement.
    Whatever Falls On Them Makes An Impression.