Spending Christmas in Brazil: Accessibility in Dois Irmãos.

This will be my second Christmas spent in the southern hemisphere, battling the sweltering heat and trying to avoid mosquitoes. It’s a far cry from the type of Christmas’ I’m used to back home, though admittedly, I’m quite accustomed to spending Christmas away from my mum and brother. I’ve celebrated the festive period in the Taiwanese mountains, the streets of Poland, and in the comfort of a dorm room in Holland. But this year I’ll be enjoying a Brazilian Christmas.

It’s challenging to emulate that cozy Yuletide feeling when the sweat’s literally seeping from places you didn’t even know it was possible to sweat from. There’s no piping hot cocoa and warm mince pies. No fluffy slippers from gran and no dark winter nights with frost in the air. Instead it’s BBQ and cold beers, coupled with trips to the beach.

As is the case universally, there’ll be a family get-together of some description. But there’ll be no Turkey and gravy, nor stuffing and cranberry sauce. Instead it’ll be a meal with various meats, rice, and of course, some potato salad for good measure. The Christmas songs remain the same – only they’re sung in Portuguese. The tune for ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is unmistakable though, regardless of the language barrier, and the line “5 golden rings” is belted out in the exact same tempo. As we play our daughter’s favorite Christmas songs on repeat, it’s almost ironic to see the snowy scenes before us on the screen, and I must confess, it sometimes gives me a pang of homesickness.

Previously we’ve visited Gramado – a town in the heart of the Serra Gaúcha mountains, dedicated to the mystique of fairy tales, and one which is highly reminiscent of an Alpine Ski Resort thanks to its German and Italian influences. People flock from all corners of Brazil to see their famous Christmas displays and frequent their fine-dining establishments. Last weekend, however, we decided upon Dois Irmâos – a competing city which in recent years has seen their Christmas lights and city events grow in popularity and scale. We enjoyed a few hours mooching around the many stalls and shop fronts, in a city center cordoned off to prevent any traffic and to allow pedestrians to roam free. We also enjoyed an amazing performance by a local folk-band, with instruments including banjos, flutes, violins, and even some bagpipes if you can believe it! Hearing them switch between Christmas songs and (bizarrely) the theme tune for Tetris, was a pure delight!

The main attraction in Dois Irmãos, and what we simply couldn’t leave without seeing, was the giant Christmas tree outside São Miguel Church (Antiga Igreja Matriz de São Miguel) which towers high into the night sky, making everything below it seem miniscule in comparison. The tree is made from both cloth and metal, and is adorned with hundreds of Christmas decorations and lights, with space underneath it for visitors to walk around its base and pay their respects to the nativity scene set up within the tree. Beside the tree there is another stage, and during the time of our visit there was a pianist gently playing Christmas songs, giving a serene background noise and helping to create a peaceful ambiance, despite the throng of people.

How is the accessibility in Dois Irmãos? :::

To be perfectly honest, there have been signs of improvement when it comes to accessibility in Dois Irmãos. Firstly, during the live performances there was a sign-language interpreter present on the stage (something which we also saw in Gramado) which is a really nice touch and helps to make the performances more inclusive.

Away from the music, the town itself is relatively flat once you get into the main city center where the Christmas events are held. There are some areas which feature cobblestones, however this year there was a red carpet laid out on top of the cobbles, which made navigating them in a wheelchair far easier. In years gone by, the area where the giant Christmas tree is situated was covered in gravel – but this year I’m happy to report it’s all been freshly paved, making life much easier.

Some of the shops and restaurants had steps at the main entrance, which is sadly something you seem to find from time to time no matter where you are in the world. Too many establishments really stretch the whole “reasonable adjustment” ruling in their favor. There are many stores in Dois Irmãos with a ramp, however, but it’s important to mention that many looked pretty steep and would probably require some assistance. Definitely not ADA compliant if that’s the yardstick you’d like to use.

Finding an accessible bathroom seems nigh on impossible. I’ve been to Dois Irmãos a couple of times now, for different free events, and I’m yet to find a spot that has an accessible bathroom. I’ll continue to investigate though and should I find one in the near future I’ll be sure to update this blog post!

Finally, we drove to Dois Irmãos, and whilst finding an accessible parking spot proved to be a challenge too difficult for us, we were able to park on a side street not far from where we were going. It’s not ideal, but it worked for us. The streets are incredibly busy during events like this.

All-in-all there is plenty to see and do in the south of Brazil during the Christmas period. Spending Christmas in a warm climate is becoming a bit more normal for me now. I used to think that I’d hate it, but I guess you could say it’s starting to grow on me!


The City of Dois Irmãos is situated in the Porto Alegre Metropolitan Region and is in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. Dois Irmãos, which translates to “Two Brothers” in English, gets its name from two famous hills that when viewed from a distance are said to resemble two brothers.

As with many cities and regions in southern Brazil, there is a lot of ethnic influence in Dois Irmãos, with a heavy presence of German lineage. This German heritage can often be seen in the city’s architectural style, the clothing the people of Dois Irmãos sometimes wear, and the events (such as Oktoberfest) which are routinely held within the city each year.

City’s like Dois Irmãos, or neighboring Nova Hartz and Novo Hamburgo, may be lesser known places in Brazil, especially when considering the enormity of the country, but they certainly offer visitors the chance of a more intimate experience, and an insight into real-life Brazil, away from the touristy hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro or São Paolo. Whether it’s learning about Gaúcho culture, discovering old German expat towns, or even exploring Japanese colonies (more on that in a future post), there’s loads to see and do in this part of the world!

For now, all that’s left to say is: Merry Christmas, everyone! 

Published in Travel


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