Christmas Traditions in Portugal

Cabeça Aldeia Natal_ Igreja
Photo: Fotografias de Pedro Ribeiro©
Photo: Fotografias de Pedro Ribeiro©

Keep up the spirit and see how you can have Portugal in your home this Christmas.

The routine may start to get tiring towards the end of the calendar, but... it's Christmas! The streets light up, the houses are decorated, where we spend more time than usual and we must maintain the cozy atmosphere to spend the cold days of this winter.

Feel the presence of Portugal at your Christmas. Try the Bolo-Rei, Broas Castelares or Bacalhau com Todos recipes. Set the table with a Madeira embroidery towel and Portuguese faience to serve the main dishes. You can also offer different gifts such as pieces of cork, clay or with Portuguese design. See how you can offer and have Portugal in your home. 

Following tradition, Portuguese families gather on the 24th of December for dinner and cod dishes are served at the table, although roast turkey and other meat dishes, which were usually savoured in the following days, also begin to integrate the menus. For dessert, you can not miss the Bolo-Rei, filled with candied fruits or dried fruits, in addition to other typical cakes of the time such as broas castelares and traditional fritters such as filhoses, sonhos and rabanadas (french toast).

At midnight, the Rooster's Mass is celebrated and, in churches as well as at home, there is a special place for the nativity scene, the recreation of the stable where Jesus was born that Saint Francis of Assisi idealized, in the 13th century, which is quite popular in Portugal.

Christmas gifts are exchanged after midnight or the following morning, depending on each family habits. In days gone by, before Santa Claus was animating Portuguese Christmas and leaving the gifts on the tree, it was the Child Jesus who delivered them. At bedtime, the children would leave a shoe in the chimney and in the morning, when they woke up, they went to see what surprise they had left. If they had done well during the year, of course ...

In places like Bragança, Guarda, Castelo Branco and in some villages, a wood is still burned during the night of December 24, in a large fire in the churchyard. It serves as a meeting place to gather friends and neighbours and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

After New Year's Eve, the festivities end on Epiphany Day, on January 6th. On the street or in monuments and churches, you can hear the “Janeiras”, traditional songs that wish for a Good Year.

This year the season´s spirit returns, and the traditional events are back! The Aldeia Natal de Cabeça (Cabeça Christmas Village), in the municipality of Seia, Óbidos or Monsaraz are very popular at this time and will maintain the Christmas lights and atmosphere, as well as most locations throughout the country.

Merry Christmas!

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