The Folia de Reis, also called Reisado or Feast of the Holy Kings, is a popular and traditional Brazilian festival. It is one of the most emblematic folk festivals in the country.
The Reisado has a cultural and religious character, and takes place from December 24th to January 6th (Twelfth Day or Day of the Three Wise Men).
In Brazil, the festival is celebrated in different regions of the country. The states where this tradition is most present are: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo and Goiás.
History of the Folia of Kings
The origin of Folia de Reis is associated with a Christian tradition of Portuguese and Spanish origin, which was probably brought to Brazil in the 19th century.
The Folia de Reis is celebrated in the Catholic religion with the aim of commemorating the visit of the three Magi (Gaspar, Melchior - or Belchior - and Baltazar) to the baby Jesus.
The celebration lasts 12 days and runs from December 24th (the eve of Jesus' birth) to January 6th, the date on which the Three Kings arrive in Bethlehem.
When the Three Kings saw the Star of Bethlehem in the sky, they went to meet Jesus and took incense, gold and myrrh as a gift.
Behind the gifts brought there was a symbology:
- Gold: represented royalty
- Incense: represented divinity or faith
- Myrrh: represented immortality
Kings' Day is celebrated on January 6th, as it was on that day that the Three Kings met Jesus.
This day also marks the date on which the trees, nativity scenes, ornaments and Christmas decorations are removed by the families that decorate their homes for the end of the year festivities.
Folia de reis groups, also called companies of kings, visit the houses in their region that day, playing music and dancing to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the meeting with the three wise men.
In return, the residents of the houses visited offer food and gifts.
Characteristics of the Kings' Folia
A group of Reis Folia is formed by a master or ambassador, a foreman, the three Magos, the clowns, the ensigns and the revelers.
In addition, during the Folia de Reis, it is possible to watch the parades of groups dedicated to the celebration through the streets.
Group members wear colorful costumes, dance and play typical music with various instruments (such as violas, reco-reco, drums, accordions, accordions, tambourines, harmonicas, etc.).
Every group has its own flag or banner.
Many of Reisado's groups make theatrical presentations reciting verses. After the parade, a themed mass is usually celebrated.
It is noteworthy that, in some places, the Folia de Reis groups are called “Suits of Kings”.
During the day, several stalls with food, drinks, games and souvenirs fill the cities that celebrate this tradition.
The celebrations are carried out according to the traditions and particularities of each region of the country. In other words, typical foods, music, games and dances vary depending on the place where the celebration takes place.
How about getting to know a little more about Brazilian culture?
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Video about the Folia of Kings
In the video below, you can see a theatrical intervention about the Folia de Reis, held at the UFMG Knowledge Space.
Songs and verses from Folia de reis
The verses (usually sudden) and songs from the feast of the Folia de Reis have religious significance.
Discover some folk songs sung at the Folia de Reis presentation:
“Open door, light on
sign of great joy
Enter me, enter my suit
Enter the whole company
Thank God we've already seen
your house light up
Since they opened the door for us
it remains to make us pass
this is the first verse
that in this house I sing
In the name of God I begin
Father, Son Holy Spirit
These three Kings for being holy
who went out walking
looking for Jesus Christ
In this house they came to find”
“just now we arrived
on the edge of your yard
to play and sing
License I ask first
my lord, owner of the house
wake up if you are sleeping
come see the morning star
how pretty is coming out
my lord, owner of the house
if you listen you will hear me
that from the east side
The three kings are arrived
We saw you sing the Kings
And also visit you
oh from home, holy house
where God came to dwell”
“Lord and owner of the house, the revelry is coming
Come kiss our flag and listen to the singing
Come kiss our flag and listen to the singing oh oh oh!
Lord and owner of the house, if it's not too costly
Come open your door we've come landing
Come and open your door, we've come to land ai ai ai!
Our body wants rest we need a corner
Our weapon who watches is the divine holy spirit
Our weapon who watches is the divine holy spirit oh oh oh!
Lord and owner of the house, the fun goes on
Stay with God our father and the protection of the divine
Stay with God our father and the protection of the divine oh oh oh!”
Curiosities about the revelry of kings
- In Spain, the “Feast of Kings” has great religious importance, being more celebrated than Christmas. Gifts are even exchanged on that day.
- In Italy, the Folia de Reis is known as “Befana” and, according to tradition, gifts are offered to children by a good witch.
- In 2017, the State Heritage Council of Minas Gerais declared the Folia de Reis as an Intangible Heritage of the State.
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