I work in an office where I am the only Brazilian person in there. It is very common for our team to celebrate birthday parties (as it is a brilliant excuse to eat lots of treats without feeling too guilty) on all occasions.
I usually take some typical Brazilian treat, and people love it! So I started to think that people probably would be interested in knowing how to prepare an authentic Brazilian birthday party.
EDIT: This was before COVID. Now I work from home, but we still celebrate through video chats.
You will need a few things for a typical Brazilian party: some savory treats, sweet treats, the main table decoration. You can’t miss the cake, which is usually much bigger than what you need and will be heavily ornate according to the theme.
The above is the basic formula for a traditional Brazilian birthday party. Still, there is an array of nuances that I will put below and even links to a couple of recipes in case you want to venture to the kitchen for your party snacks!
And if you are interested in just a specific aspect of a traditional Brazilian birthday party, check our table of contents below:
Brazilian Birthday Party Theme
Kids and adults’ parties alike follow similar rules when it comes to the food, perhaps maybe with the exception that grown-ups don’t necessarily always have a party but go out for dinner or to a bar with friends instead.
However, if you have a Brazilian bday party, you will probably need to choose a theme. Usually, the cartoon, super-hero, princess, or character your child is most interested in will be the theme you will choose for kids.
It is also usual to make a huge party for your child’s first birthday. Some popular themes for these are circus, princess or fairy tale style, little farm, garden.
For adults, the theme could be anything, from NSFW themes, football teams, “boteco” (botˈɛku), which is a typical bar/informal restaurant in Brazil. You can also go with a plain color theme like pink, blue, navy (white, red, and blue), and so on.
Brazilian Birthday Party Decoration
Now that you have chosen the theme, let’s then talk about applying it to your party’s decoration. The way you choose to go forward here will directly impact the party’s costs, and some of these options might not be available in all countries.
For kids’ parties, it is usually common to hire a venue, which can be a plain saloon to be decorated (some venues would offer this option for an extra amount) or a kids’ playground style of venue, and they usually allow for theme customizations for your party.
These options will be the most expensive ones, and I researched some options outside of Brazil and couldn’t find anywhere where they let you customize to your taste. The only thing available is usually a pre-curated theme catalog for you to choose from.
You will find various options for venues and themes in Brazil, including famous characters that are not widely available abroad. If you live in a condo, apartment, or flat in Brazil, it will most likely have its own venue inside the building that you can pay a fee to use. This is usually much cheaper and convenient (as you just need to get down the elevator to get there).
Another way you can decorate your party is in a DYI style. If you are not in Brazil, check some tutorials on Youtube and go to your nearest shop or buy the materials online.
Usually, some colored table cloth, petit four cases (like these), disposable hats and plates (the decorated ones), and some wall ornaments and balloons is all you need for a Brazilian themed birthday party.
If you are in Brazil, you will have several popular markets (usually in the city center, there will be busy streets with very cheap shops, such as Uruguaiana (uɾuɡwajˈɐnɐ) in Rio de Janeiro or 25 de Março (vˈĩtʃi i cincoˈĩk) in São Paulo.
These shops will have everything you need for your party, from tablecloths to figurines, gift bags for party favors, and balloons. No matter how you choose to do it, just make sure your theme can be seen throughout the party for an authentic Brazilian party feel to it!
Brazilian Birthday Party Savory Treats
Ok, all of this theme choosing and decoration has made you hungry. Yes, me too, especially as I know the delicious treats these Brazilian salgadinhos are! You have an array of pastries to choose from, and people usually have around 3 to 5 options of savory treats.
Also, you should calculate between 12 to 15 salgadinhos per invitee to a Brazilian birthday party.
These are served from the beginning of the party until just before the cake cutting. You can prepare them yourself or order them by the hundreds as they are supposed to be the mini version (everywhere I’ve been outside of Brazil, you can find a Brazilian chef or shop that would sell them by order).
Some of the main types of savory pastries for parties are:
- Quibe (or kibe)
- Bolinha de queijo
- Enroladinho de salsicha
You might have noticed most words ends in “inha/inho,” this simply implies they are the mini versions of the full individual ones! Remember this as you read, and you will notice most of the words around Brazilian party food have this suffix.
My personal favorites from the list above are coxinhas, empadinhas, and bolinhas de queijo. However, all of them are very good, so pick and choose according to your preference.
I added a small description of each one, so go ahead and pick three (or all) of them to make sure your guests have some variety. This is usually the only savory food served in most typical parties, so having a few choices is a good call.
The most famous Brazilian pastry, I am yet to meet someone (Brazilian or not) that doesn’t love it! This deep-fried chicken croquette is a must-have at all birthday parties in Brazil!
I think this recipe is great if you want to try cooking it yourself. It calls for cream cheese, but you can also leave it out without compromising the “essence” of the coxinha.
Risole is probably a second close when it comes to party treats. They are originally a Portuguese recipe, but it is very common in Brazil due to our roots in the Portuguese culture and colonization.
Risoles are mostly made with shrimps. You can also find options with corn, cheese, ham, or both ham and cheese.
I found this recipe from a Portuguese culinary website in English, and they follow all the steps for the authentic version, which calls for you to boil the raw shrimps whole and use the water as a broth to prepare the filling. Some other recipes skipped this step, so they might not be as tasty.
Quibe or Kibe
Even though we don’t have the letter k (nor w or y) in our alphabet, you will likely see quibe written as kibe as well. Inspired by middle eastern cuisine, this mini meatloaf is full of flavor and really common at most parties. It is also one of the easiest recipes to follow. Check this one for a quick step by step.
These little pies are my second favorite! I could eat so many of these on the go! They are perfect for birthday parties as they hold and taste very well even when they go cold. Popular flavors include shrimps, cheese, and chicken.
The dough is buttery and crumbly and very tasty as well! Check this recipe for the shrimp version and adapt it to the filling of your choice.
Bolinha de Queijo
This is a simple deep-fried cheese ball, very common in traditional Brazilian parties. It is basically a round gooey melty tasty cheese ball. Do I need to say more?!
Enroladinho de Salsicha
I am not a fan of this one, probably because I find sausages in Brazil to be of low quality. If you are outside of Brazil, maybe you would like it better with the sausages (we use the frankfurter style in Brazil) you have available. You can find deep-fried and oven-baked versions.
I prefer the baked version as something about deep frying a sausage doesn’t really sit well with me. Tastemade has a post with 3 different types of sausage rolls you can see here.
There are several other options you could go for if you would like to diversify. If you checked the recipes, you would probably have noticed they are quite time consuming to prepare. I suggest you order them from a local Brazilian chef (believe me, they are everywhere).
Pheew, after all of this food, I guess I am ready to move on to the next step, the sweet treats!
Brazilian Birthday Party Sweet Treats
You can still rock a Brazilian party without the savory treats above, but you definitely can’t get away without the docinhos! They are mostly little balls with a coat of sugar or chocolate sprinkles. I will not delve into all the sweet treats you have.
Most parties have a couple of options as well as some supermarket-bought candies and the cake. That is usually enough for a Brazilian birthday party, but you can have several variations of the ones I added below. For the sweet treats, you should calculate between 6 to 8 docinhos per person.
However, most Brazilians would agree the three below docinhos make a good, well-rounded sweet treats selection for your party:
A nationwide favorite. This fudgy chocolate ball is the king of the parties. Don’t you dare invite Brazilians to a traditional party that doesn’t have this sweet snack! The bonus is that it is super simple to prepare, but it takes a long time to roll up hundreds of these yourself.
I would suggest (in fact, for all the food at your party) to have it ordered if you can afford it. You can find plenty of recipes all over the internet, but I am linking this one, which I believe is closer to the traditional recipe, except for the pinch of salt. I have never used salt on it, but I believe it can be a good combination. I might try it myself next time!
This sweet treat was all the rage back in the ’80s and ’90s. I loved them. They were in all my friends’ and mine’s parties back then but now has given way to the gourmet versions of brigadeiro (with Nutella, rum, white chocolate, the list goes on).
This underrated sweet is a variation of the brigadeiro but has ground peanuts in the mix and a full peanut or cashew nut on the top. It is shaped and named like the cashew (Caju in Portuguese – a typical Brazilian fruit -, and cajuzinho literally means “little cashew”)
Cajuzinho, the treat, was supposed to be made with cashew nuts instead, but it is most widely made with peanuts, and it is just as delicious and much cheaper! This is a classic and very tasty, you will certainly impress your Brazilian friends if the cajuzinhos!
This is a coconut sweet snack and complements your selection well with the other 2 above. The name means “little kiss” (once again, the “inho”). The process is very similar to preparing brigadeiros, but you will substitute cocoa powder for coconut flakes and the chocolate sprinkles for desiccated coconut.
Take a look at how to prepare these little snowballs (they look like it) here.
Another way of having sweet treats at your party is with small gift bags or a big balloon full of candies popped just before the cake cutting (more on that later).
You could also add some coconut candies to decorate the table. Now that you know about the sweet treats that are a must-have at any Brazilian party let’s check the drinks.
Brazilian Birthday Party Drinks
There isn’t much to say here. You should always have some still water, some Coke, and Guarana, Brazilian traditional soda if you can find it. Guarana is widely available in any shop, bar, or restaurant in Brazil, but check your local Brazilian shop if you are outside Brazil. I bet you will be able to find it there ;).
Big 2 liter (67.6 US fl oz) bottles and disposable cups are totally acceptable. Try to have a couple of diet/low-calorie bottles as there is always someone who would prefer that. Calculate 500 ml of soda per invitee (17.6 fl oz).
For the adults, beer and the coke and guarana mentioned above will usually be fine. You can go as fancy as you can on the beers, but I wouldn’t go for the cheaper option. Get an average, wildly known brand, and you will be fine.
If it is a kid’s party, I would avoid having too much beer for the adults to avoid embarrassment. If this is a party for adults, you can complement it with other alcoholic beverages, like spirits and cocktails. Don’t sweat much on this. Just make sure you have plenty for everyone, and you will be ok.
For the beers, you should calculate between 3 and 4 cans of 300 ml (10.1 fl oz) or 2 glass bottles of 600 ml (21.1 fl oz) per adult.
Brazilian Birthday Party Cake
The cake. The icon of most birthday parties around the world. Obviously, a Brazilian party would not be complete without a cake. It is not a simple cake either: it usually has loads of paste, colors, cream, and filling.
The cake usually matches the theme of your party. While you don’t need to do that for the savory snacks, and it is optional to decorate the sweet ones, the cake is usually expected to be decorated.
While it will not be as fancy as a wedding cake, it will have some degree of “fanciness.” The size of the cake will also vary according to the number of people at the party. It is a good rule of thumb to have between 60g to 100g of cake per person (2.1 to 3.5 oz).
Put it at the center of your decorated table, with figurines and sweet treats around it. The candles usually only go on the cake at the last moment to avoid damaging the cake during the party.
In regards to flavor, ensure it is tasty, but I guess this is obvious. A vanilla cake with some cream filling is always a safe bet.
Some other popular cake flavors are chocolate with coconut, vanilla with strawberries, and vanilla with doce de leite (milk fudge). These are not the only options but only the most common ones to find in traditional parties around Brazil.
Brazilian Party Traditions And Culture
Ok, so you have your theme and decoration, you selected and ordered your savory and sweet snacks, you already decided on a cake and bought a truckload of drinks that makes you think you have maybe gone a bit overboard.
You are ready to go, right? Not yet! There are some traditions and nuances to the authentic Brazilian party you must know to ensure your party looks like you are as native as Neymar, the football player (ok, maybe not a great example, but you get the idea).
Brazilian Birthday Parties Last Long
The first thing you need to be aware of is that Brazilian parties are long. They usually go from anywhere between 4 hours to upwards of 8 hours.
If you are holding an adult birthday party in your house or the venue in your apartment complex, be mindful that most places have a 10 PM silence rule, so your party should end before or at that time to avoid issues with neighbors.
Brazilians Usually Arrive Late At Parties
If you are doing a Brazilian-themed party outside of Brazil, it might be a good idea to ensure you put start and end times on the invitation (if you are inviting Brazilian people, that is).
For venues in Brazil, the invites usually have the start and end date already since you usually rent it for a specific block of hours and some venues have more than one party per day. Staff usually start cleaning around to show you it is time to wrap things up.
The good thing is that you can usually go on until a bit later as venues are prepared for that. Also, bear in mind Brazilian people are usually late. If your invite says 7 PM, expect people to arrive at 8 PM or later.
Please don’t be mad at them. In Brazil, people actually imply the start time is not the correct one, as it is seen as a bit too eager and not polite to be on time. Go figure.
On the other hand, if you are ever invited to a Brazilian party, try not to get there at the scheduled time (unless the person has been living outside Brazil for a long time and is already used to the locals’ punctuality or lack thereof).
Arriving 30 min to 1 hour late to the scheduled time is a safe bet. If you are not sure, just ask them if they really mean that you should be there at the beginning of the party or at what time you should arrive.
Brazilian Birthday Parties Start Late
Now, you must have noticed the times I added here sound really late for kids’ parties, right? Well, the truth is: not really by Brazilian standards. You can have birthday parties during the day or early evening, but most parties usually start at 7 PM.
If you are hiring a venue, it is usually cheaper during the week, so scheduling it for 7 PM ensures the parents can take the kids to the party after work. The parties will go on until 10 PM or 11 PM, so be prepared as your kid will not be sleeping too early as it is just not the norm in Brazil anyway.
Brazilian Families Usually Attend The Parties
It is traditional for the parents of the kid’s friends to attend the party. It surprises most foreigners about birthday parties in Brazil, but that is the norm in the country.
If throwing a party in Brazil, expect the family to attend. Brazilian Birthday parties are a social event, so a lot of time, people joke that the kid’s party is just an excuse to also meet and socialize with your friends.
Gifts Are Expected For Children’s Parties But Not Necessarily For Adults
For adults’ birthday parties, it depends on the type of celebration. If a traditional party is being thrown, a gift is usually welcome. If it is a celebration at a restaurant or a potluck style, a gift is not expected as you will be paying for your own food.
If it is a Brazilian birthday party, you give the birthday person the gift upon arrival, and they will put it in a pile or box with the other gifts received. It is not expected that the person opens it immediately nor that they send a thank you note afterward.
They might send you an informal message if they really liked it, but again, don’t expect it.
Gifts for kids are usually toys. Close family members, especially grandparents, can give them some pocket money, but most friends would just get a gift. You can also give them clothes, the parents will love it but the kids not so much.
Gifts for adults can be anything. Clothing is usually a safe bet. Gift cards are considered poor taste. Books might also be a good option, especially if they are funny and witty.
A bottle of wine or other beverages is usually well-received too. There are a few shops in Brazil (such as Imaginarium) that sell some creative and fun home decor. They make an excellent option for gifts.
During The Party
There will usually be several tables during the party where you can sit with people to whom you are closer and a space for dancing. You are not expected to socialize with everyone. However, in smaller groups, it is usually a good idea to try and blend in.
Children’s parties might have some playgrounds, like a ball pit, a slide, or even some small rides, like a mini roller coaster, depending on the venue you hire. It is not very common to have magicians, face painting, and other things, but you can also find these attractions should you wish to have them.
In regards to the food, the drinks are served first, immediately followed by the salgadinhos, then the cake, and lastly the docinhos. Either a waiter or the host will come around serving the food. If it is the host, it is a nice gesture to offer help.
They will most likely say no, but if they say yes, be prepared to give them some hand. Whatever is on the table shouldn’t be taken until after the cake is cut. They are all there decorating the party’s central piece, so do not spoil it by taking a brigadeiro before time!
You might see some kids (and even some adults) doing it, but trust me, this is very impolite. When the party is coming to an end, there might be a big balloon pop.
It is common (or used to be back in the days when I was a kid) to have a big balloon full of candies to be popped right before the cake (the Brazilian version of a piñata, but we don’t hit it, just run after the candies once it is popped). These are wrapped candies that will just be scattered all over the floor, and kids will run around picking them up. It used to be great fun!
The Brazilian Happy Birthday to You And Other Birthday Songs
After this, all people, adults and children alike, are supposed to gather around the table to sing Happy Birthday. The Brazilian Happy Birthday song is actually a bit more elaborate than the English version.
Hear it in the video below. I actually had a hard time finding a good video, and the best one is a video for kids, but it is good for learning as it has the lyrics. The first 50 seconds is all you need, as the remaining of the video will just repeat it.
The lyrics for Happy Birthday to you in Brazilian Portuguese is:
Parabéns pra você / Happy birthday to you
Nesta data querida / On this lovely day
Muitas felicidades / Lots of happiness
Muitos anos de vida / I hope you live long
After the happy birthday singing, there is kind of a finalizing chant that goes more or less like the below, but have regional variations:
É big, é big / It’s big, it’s big
É big, é big, é big / It’s big, it’s big, it’s big
É hora, é hora / It’s time, it’s time
É hora, é hora, é hora / It’s time, it’s time, it’s time
Rá tim bum / Just gibberish words, don’t mean anything
Ana! Ana! Ana! (whichever the person’s name is 3x, Ana is my name =D )
There might be some other chants, usually teasing the birthday person or just as a way of celebrating. One of the most popular ones is a song made by a Brazilian TV presenter known as Xuxa (Shoo-shah), and you can hear it below (she mentions guarana =p)
I forgot to mention the mandatory clapping to the rhythm, but it is very easy to follow. After all of this clapping and singing, the candles are blown, and a wish is made.
The tradition dictates it can’t be told to anyone or it doesn’t come true. I believe this is the same as in most parts of the world but there is always an uncle or cousin that will tease by demanding the wish is made and ensuring it is not told to anyone. You know, we all have that uncle.
The Cake Cutting And The End Of The Party
Anyway, the cake is cut, the first piece is usually offered to the most important person to the birthday person. It could be their mom, dad, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.
After the first piece is cut and offered, that’s when you can go for the sweet treats (you will see everyone just jumping at it, so be quick, or you won’t get much!).
Usually, shortly after this, the social norm dictates everybody starts to go, and the host usually offers them to take some cake for relatives or people that couldn’t come. They can also take a small plate of sweet and savory treats.
Lastly comes the tough part: cleaning! If you hired a venue, you probably could just ask the manager if that’s ok to leave or if they need anything else from you.
If the venue is in the building you leave, even though cleaning is included, it is actually only the cleaning, so make sure you tidy up chairs, tables, and decorations. You will need to remove those and take them with you.
This pretty much sums up all that a birthday party in Brazil is. Obviously, it will vary by region and personal taste, but you will definitely impress your Brazilian friends with the formula above!
Also, if you are interested in more information about Brazil, you might be interested in these other posts as well:
- What Music Do Brazilians Listen To? – What Brazilians are actually listening to right now, including a Spotify playlist especially curated by us! Perfect to add to your Brazilian Party Playlist!
- Rio Carnival: Instruments Used And How It Is Organized The instruments used in Brazilian Samba during carnival, in case you want a proper party with live music!
- Celebrating A Bday In Rio: Where To Go And What To Do In case you prefer partying out instead of throwing your own, we have a list of some spots in Rio de Janeiro that are just perfect for that!