Christmas in Portugal
Lisbon has been voted the number one European destination for Christmas shopping in a recent Guardian poll (1) so we thought we’d give you an insight into how the Portuguese celebrate.
A primarily Catholic country, many of Portugal’s Christmas traditions centre on the religious aspects of the holiday, however its towns and cities are also host to the standard Christmas fixtures of impressive lights and Christmas trees.
24th December – Véspera de Natal (Christmas Eve)
Like many other European countries, Christmas Eve is the most important night over the festive period. Families traditionally gather, exchange gifts, and share a feast which usually features large amounts of cod (of course!) followed by a special Bolo de Rei cake filled with candied fruits and nuts for dessert.
Midnight Mass is held at church, and towns across Portugal host Nativity scenes using both detailed models and live actors and animals to depict the famous scene. This tradition was first suggested by St Francis Assisi as early as the 13th century and still lives on 8 centuries later.
Some households still keep a yule log burning in the hearth overnight and families can gather round the warm light and celebrate.
31st January – New Year’s Eve
To ring in the New Year, many Portuguese cities host parties and firework displays and at midnight people toast to the New Year and eat 12 grapes, one on each chime of the clock, and make 12 wishes for the New Year.
6th January – Three Kings/Epiphany
As with other European Catholic countries, the Portuguese round off the festive period with Epiphany celebrations on 6th January. A curious tradition they have is the ‘Janeiras’ where people join together in public places and sing special festive songs to celebrate the New Year, this usually takes place from the 1st to 6th January.
Óbidos - Christmas Village
The town of Óbidos hosts one of Portugal’s most famous Christmas villages. The entire town is transformed into a Christmas wonderland and you enjoy delicious festive treats and drinks at the stalls. The Pousada de Óbidos sits at the centre of the town and is in a prime location to enjoy the jolly atmosphere!
Bacalhau – The Catholic tradition does not permit eating meat for Christmas dinner and so the Portuguese tradition is to enjoy their special salted cod as part of their Christmas feast.
Bolo de Rei – Traditional Christmas cake made with candied fruits or nuts. A broad bean is usually placed within the mixture and the lucky person who finds it should have a fortuitous New Year.
Sonhos – Deep fried sweet soft pastries which are typically eaten at Christmas.
Filhós – A deep fried pastry sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
On behalf of everyone at Keytel, we would like to wish you Feliz Natal!