Thursday, September 29, 2011

Please Stranger, Give me Candy!

I think she looks shady 

If you are a child or have a child and were in Rio de Janeiro on the 27th of September you may have been offered bags of candy from a stranger.

The first time this happened to me I thought the woman was joking. Really, I'm going to take a paper baggie of homemade (and thus unwrapped) candy from some strange lady giving them away at the park. Sure, that sounds like a really smart plan.

As it turns out it's another one of those fabulous cultural differences/traditions. You see, the are some random Saints called São Cosme and São Damião. Since Americans are like the worst Catholics ever, I think we missed the memo on these guys. They are the Saints of children. As the story goes, they were fabulously good people when alive (as most saints are) and after death they would materialize to help children who were victims of violence or illness. By the way, they were also doctors and obviously wonderfully good at multitasking.

Anyway, so Cariocas give out homemade candies to children in honor of these two saints. It's also said that people pray and make deals with these two, promising that if they heal a certain sick child the family member will give out x number of bags. I have also heard it said that some people put a Macumba (bad spell from the religion of Candomblé) on the bags as to pass the illness of the one child onto the children who accept the goodies.

Personally, regardless of all said above, I just think it is weird to take candy from strangers. I suppose all those after school specials in the US hit home for me. I'm sorry but I don't care if it is some sweet old lady giving them out. Sweet, old or whatever you can still be twisted.

I know what Brazilians would say to this. They'd say "But we aren't like you. We don't hurt children! Who would put bad stuff in candy and hand it out!?"

I don't know but I do remember the urban legend that circulated Halloween of 1986. My Mother confiscated any candy that looked like it was looked at.  My bag of booty turned into a big old bag of sad! I think that may have traumatized me to this day and now I will never look at bags of candy the same again.

So you tell me, would you take candy from a stranger in the name of a Saint? 


  1. People can be weirdos and do things in the name of a Saint, God, etc.

    With that being said would I take it? Yes. I don't want to be rude. Maybe it's my constant quest for acceptance, lol. Let my child actually eat it? NO way.

  2. I accept them and then give them away or throw them out...

  3. Growing up we were always told "never accept candy from a stranger" and I being the sweet tooth girl I still am, always used to blame my bad luck for never meeting such nice stranger chaps...I should have discovered Brazil earlier!

  4. I'm brazilian, so I can say: even here, accepting things from strangers is not such a good idea. Brazilians, generally speaking, love children; but (I know it may sound paranoid) there are evil people everywhere. And you can't exactly take the chance with your kids. Like you said, accept it, say thanks, and throw them out after. It's the best move here.

  5. So I don't have kids so I'm not going to pretend I understand how protective parents must feel or what I would do if I had them, but I (and I think lots of people) buy sweets (brigadeiros etc.) on the street all the time, which are clearly homemade and unwrapped, and I've never felt uncomfortable about it (or sick afterwards). I guess it's just too awful to think that the holiday would be different and that people would purposely poison kids...

  6. I accept candy from strangers every October 31st here in the states & and it isn't even in the name of saints --which may offer some protection! My mom also took our 'suspicious' candy when we were kids In the 80's (something about razor blades in candy bars???) but I suspect she ate it herself.

    I should probably also mention that I'll take candy anytime from anyone so I may not be capable of making a responsible decision. ;D

  7. Ani Lacy, your comment about your mom made me LOL. hehehe

  8. I am really enjoying reading your blog as we are planning a move to Rio however I really didn't like your comment that Americans are horrible Catholics. Maybe some are, but many are not. As I am sure is the case in Brasil. The saints you are referring to in English are called Saint Cosmos and Saint Damian (brothers).

    You make great observations and very funny points in your blog, but after living in Argentina for many years, I have a low tolerance for the negative generalizations about American culture that are a little overboard.

  9. Awww Don't take it the wrong way. If you compare, Brazilians are far more dedicated Catholics than any of the ones I know at home (besides my Grandmother). It's all in good fun like I'm allowed to poke fun at Americans becahse I am one

  10. So not to take this discussion to far...but I thought it might make for an interesting post. I have often heard that Brazil is more Catholic in culture than in practice, everyone gets baptized, married in the church, hands out candy for saints etc. Recent statistics show that something like 80% of Brazilians consider themselves Catholic but only 20% actually attend weekly mass, understand holy days, church teachings etc. Is this true? Or are these exaggerations? We saw this in Argentina (once considered a very Catholic country) and was curious what we would find in Brazil.

  11. rachel : you wrote I'm allowed to poke fun at Americans becahse I am one.

    According to this logic you arent allowed to poke brazilians.

  12. Bethany: if you ask a brazilian, he will answer he is catholic, even if he doesn't know a thing about the religion. It's the standard answer we give. But, no, even if a brazilian says he/she is catholic, it doesn't mean that he will attend to mass, pray or even step in a church. And don't expect that "religion" will change anyone's behaviour; we call ourselves catholics, but the Jeitinho Brasileiro isn't exactly the most catholic thing in the world.

  13. about 60% of brazilians say they are catholics but few practice.

    Brazil is a very pluralist country. Catholics , Protestants , Evangelicals , Orthodox , Judaism , Islamism , Buddism , Spiritism , etc. Brazil is a laic country but catholic holidays are a big part of the culture.

  14. My religion is Brazilianism. The worship of Brazilians.

    Yeah and I wouldn't let my kids take candy from strangers either. Unless it was like a really sweet old granny or something. Or Gisele Bundchen, but she's not really a stranger if you catch my drift.

    Um monte de beijos molhados e baguncados,

  15. Rachel,

    Now that you mention the name of the Saints I remembered the tradition. But I have to say I am not too familiar with it. Maybe it's not a big deal everywhere.
    I am totally with you on this one, it is down right weird to get home made goodies from strangers. They coul adapt the tradition and get gift cards for "Lojas Americanas", you go and buy you own candy, how about that?
    They would make children happy, do the saint thing and make momas relaxed about the whole thing, problem solved :)


    Hey, We Catholics are like that, we don't know our own freaking 2000 year old traditions, you try and keep track of all the crap Catholics have been making up for 2011 years and see how well you do it.
    Most of these other cults and new religions like the Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses and Baptists started to make up their traditions much more recently, the magic underwear, the not celebrating the birthdays, the protesting at Soldiers funerals, all these new religions traditions were just invented recently.
    Us Catholics have to go back in history and keep track of all the saints and all the popes yadda yadda yadda, it's insanity.
    So, we Catholics are like this, we remember a few things, some of us follow some things, some of us stick with other stuff and we just carry it on.


    Brazilians are super Catholics, we are Catholics on crack comparing to Americans, thanks to our strong Portuguese heritage.:)
    You just reminded me of poor ol'Jim being scared half to death with all those scary Saints hanging from the walls in Niteroi's supermarkets, ask him and he will tell you how Catholic Brazilians can really get... ;)


  16. I'm with you. I made it this far and that just might be because my parents also warned me about taking candy from strangers (FYI - just recently, a few kids in the Chicagoland area ran from some guys that offered candy to them if they would get in their car... another warning that was drilled into me at a young age) and eating anything that wasn't properly sealed in a nice preservative bag.

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. Anon, I totally knew someone would make that comment about me saying because I'm American. I'm Brazilian at heart so I'm riding on both sides ;)

    Dude, the Brazilian Catholics I know practice hardcore. They get harder core with age. It may just be Mr. Rant's family but these guys go to church, know the priest super well, and are involved. Some of them go a couple of times a week and 1 aunt works at the church.

    BUt I do know a lot of Brazilians that consider themselves everything and go from a church mass to a spiritualist meeting. To each their own :))

  19. Rachel,

    You are right, this is one thing Brazilians are consistent across the board, religion, Catholic religion that is, all the Catholic holidays, customs and traditions.
    Every town in Brazil is defined by the ever so present Catholic Church and a square surrouding it in the middle of the town. Usually is where the town started a couple of centuries ago.


  20. @ Rachel

    I think American Catholics are much more observant than their Brazilian counterparts. It just seems that Americans are more inclined to follow rules than Brazilians are and religion, at least Christianity, require people to adhere to a specific code of conduct. I also wouldn´t be surprised if attendance of Mass is greater in the United States. Anybody out there willing to research this on the web?
    I don`t think explicit saint worship makes a person a better Catholic, nor more Catholic than someone that belongs to the Catholic Church and follows thru on their Catholic duties yet prefer not to bother the saints and so solve their problems on their own. Plus trying to discern if one society is more Catholic than the next by using explict saint worship as a thermometer is probably flawed since many Catholics from more reserved societies probably don´t want to wear their financial and/or sentimental woes on their sleeves and hand out a gift to a stranger for finally getting a girlfriend or boyfriend and finally being able to pay for their bills.
    Anyway I found this
    and I am thinking of putting my name out there to become the patron saint of bloggers. Can I count on your support Rachel?

    @ Ray

    I think one of the greatest crimes committed in Brazil was perpetrated by mayors of countless small towns that decided to remove the cobblestones and instead concrete the areas surrounding many lovely town squares. Some even removed the whole square altogether because it wasn´t "moderno". These guys pray daily to the patron saint of estupido e tacky (yes, a bilingual saint).

  21. Yes, but what about Halloween? Do all these american kids throw all the treats aways under parent pressure because they were given to them by strangers? Was I lied to all these years? :)

    Anyway, I spent my childhood eating Cosme e Damião candies/sweets. Once I was denied my little bag as I was deemed too old (in fact I was only ten, but being much taller than most 10 year olds I couldn't make the sweet old lady believe me). Talking of them, unless they're seriously intent on mass murder, I don't see why their candies would pose a threat. No more than if bought from a street vendor. :)

  22. But at Halloween the candies are normally individually wrapped ie. supposedly safer. In my day they gave out homemade candy apples...

  23. About the candy thing:

    Read the first item (number five). It made me remeber this.

  24. Hi, listen, I'm pretty new on this blogosphere and Internet thing, so I don't know if there's a sort of "subscription" method that I can use in order to receive notifications of your new entries...? Thing is I enjoy reading your blog a lot and I'd like to be up to date with your posts!