By Armando Huerta © 2004
I’ve never been much of a fan of New Year’s Eve. The whole idea of forced gaiety because of the calendar turning has as much appeal to me as reading a Danielle Steele novel cover to cover. People are so desperate to have a good time and not be alone they get plastered on cheap booze along with plastering their faces with forced smiles like ghoulish Venetian masks.
That has been and still is my opinion but now with one major exception, New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Can you say “Holy Shit!”? The party that takes over this town on New Year’s Eve is out of control, the nucleus of it being Copacabana beach. Starting at 5pm, the police shut down all roads to Copacabana beach with exception of taxis and buses. The reason for that is the average 1.5 million people that invade the beach to see the fireworks. These aren’t just regular fireworks but a 30 minute extravaganza with fireworks being blasted off 3 barges parked in Guanabara bay. As they seem to go on forever with fake endings and several crescendos, you only truly know the display is over when the high rise Meridien hotel gets enveloped in fireworks that cascade down all sides of the building.
Adding to this spectacle is the fact that most everyone on the beach is wearing white, a Brazilian custom meant to symbolize starting the new year with a clean slate. The sight of 1.5 million people wearing white and milling about on the sand is one that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Friends of mine from New York upon seeing the scene from up high were speechless for a good 15 minutes. Which brings me another way to make the experience better… get invited to a party in one of the apartments facing the ocean.
Nothing beats enjoying the scene from an elegantly furnished apartment with waiters serving champagne and a buffet at hand stocked with alcohol soaking nibbles. The building we were in this year is next door to the beautiful and historic Copacabana Palace and famed for it’s New Year’s Eve parties which cram the social columns the following morning. Last year it was estimated that 4,000 people came into the building for New Year’s Eve parties and this year guests were given bracelets in advance which allowed them to get past the bouncers stationed at the entrances to the building. It’s a Brazilian custom to try and crash parties but the turban wearing aging socialites in the building were having none of it this year. I’ve heard about the parties in this particular building for years but had never attended until now. I’m sorry I hadn’t. The elevators were crammed with celebrities, sluts (sometimes one of the same), ancient old school Brazilians in white tux jackets, bodyguards and nannies. All different but all there for the same reason, to get shitty and toast the new year. Can’t beat it...
Armando Huerta is a writer from Sao Paulo, Brazil.