Crowds of Brazilians were getting ready to greet 2013 on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro with floral offerings to Yemanja, the “orisha” or divinity of the seas in Afro-Brazilian religions.
Copacabana beach was embellished with flowers washed up by the sea that had been tossed in the waters by the faithful as they said their prayers on the shore.
Rio de Janeiro is the Brazilian city with the most followers of Umbanda, a syncretic religion that mixes African and Catholic rites.
Nonetheless, the tradition of throwing flowers in the sea in honor of Yemanja has spread beyond that specific religion and is now practiced by many Brazilians of all faiths.
Besides the floral offerings, Brazilians observed on Monday other traditions typical of New Year’s Eve, such as wearing white from head to food to express a wish for peace during the New Year.
Some 2 million people dressed in white are expected to gather Monday night on Copacabana beach for the fireworks and samba concerts.
Thousands of people crowded the beach from early Monday morning to save a place for their partying and to enjoy the sunny day with temperatures around 38 C (100 F).
As bathers and the Yemanja faithful looked on, a tugboat placed 11 floating platforms offshore, from which 24 tons of fireworks were to be shot off at midnight.