On Christmas Eve in Portugal, salt cod is the traditional dish and meat is served on Christmas and Boxing days. For dessert, the menu includes crown-shaped Bolo Rei filled with crystallised fruit, and traditional fritters. The pastries, filhozes, sonhos and rabanadas, are delicious.
At home, just as in the local church, people find a special place to put the Saviour’s crib from the nativity. It was the idea of St. Francis of Assis in the 13th Century to re-create the stable where Jesus was born at Christmas. In the regions of Bragança, Guarda or Castelo Branco, a Yule log is burned in the atrium of the village church after mass. It helps keep everyone warm through the night and to wish family and friends a Merry Christmas.
Stay for the New Year celebrations. At midnight, there’s a fireworks display in every town. Everyone eats 12 raisins, with one wish for each month, and drinks champagne to bring in the New Year. The party in Madeira is renowned for being the most dazzling, with a display of light and colour over the whole island you can even see from the ocean.
At the start of the New Year, you’ll see people singing in the streets. These are the Janeiras (new year’s carollers). They sing traditional songs and those who pass by are wished a Happy New Year full of luck.