A Coruja: Dispatch from Brazil – Parabéns Pra Voce

The Owl (“a coruja” in Portuguese) is at her southern home in Guaecá, which is just about her favorite place on the planet. A Coruja is taking over the Owl for a week or so to give readers a look at something other than New England. Scroll on by if you have no interest.


Today is my birthday – and like the last three years and other years before that, we are spending it in Brazil. I hated my birth date growing up–three days after Christmas meant many a “Merry Christmas and happy birthday” present though some of them were big enough to warrant that (my dog Truffle for one). The worst case was that many friends forgot it with no facebook reminder to jolt them. I never had birthday songs in the school cafeteria and had many a day with friends traveling and not available for a party. Oh poor me. Well, I’m making it up for it now.

To state the obvious, Brazil’s summer is New England’s winter. We are down here during summer school holidays. I have a Tropic of Capricorn birthday (appropriate because I am one), filled with family on vacation, doors open to the ocean breeze, and days of late sunset (except today where it seems the rain will win). Finally, finally I am winning the birthday jackpot.

In Brazil, birthdays of friends or family members are big deals. Every person who wakes up and comes into the room where I sit gives me a giant hug, a birthday greeting, and words of best wishes. It is not a US “hey, happy birthday” and move on. If I’m not here in the country, family members will call me throughout the day. It’s not a text message, and more than a facebook post (though I like those too, by the way!). Someone is definitely going to make me a cake. Maybe two.

A two-cake birthday with flower decorations. I found one birthday memory with 3 cakes!

We’ll spend the day enjoying the beach which we’ll leave the day after tomorrow. And then at some time to be decided (the beach has a different time zone which involves “before lunch”, the “tardezinha” (little afternoon) or “evening” which could be anywhere between 7 pm and 11 pm), we’ll gather for cake. We’ll all sing the happy birthday song in Portuguese (Parabéns pra voce) with clapping accentuating each line. In Brazil, there is an added song that is a bit more raucous – and I still have no idea what it means–something about piqué but not the soccer player.

The birthday song will end as it always does with the line “muitos anos da vida” which means “long life” but my kids sang at preschool ages as “muitos anos bebidas” which would be something along the line of having drunk from a lot of years. Not “being drunk” which is something entirely different. And yes, I have enjoyed quite a few years of life and am looking forward to many more, to be celebrated here, there and everywhere.

Happy December 28th!


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