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CHRISTMAS IN PORTUGAL
Log

 

                                                    

Like in Spain, the traditional Christmas meal in Portugal is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve and consists of codfish with vegetables and boiled potatoes. This is normally followed by shellfish, wild meats or other expensive foods.

After the meal, people go to church for the 'Missa do Galo' or 'Mass of the Rooster' service. After the service people return home, and open their presents.

Every house has a rich table set in the living room full with traditional food, cakes, fried cookies, nuts and other goodies! People drink porto wine, traditional liquors. The party lasts until the early hours of the morning!   

During the holiday season towns are decorated with lights. In the days leading to Christmas, the Christmas tree is set up and adorned with beautiful items of decoration. Houses are decorated in a festive manner to celebrate the occassion. In every Portuguese house, a piece of oak is kept burning on the hearth all through the Christmas day. This wooden piece is known as the "Cepo de Natal" or the Christmas log.

Gift-giving is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations. According to the Portugese tradition, it is the Three Wise Men and not Santa Claus who is the gift-bringer. On 5th of January or Epiphany Eve, children keep their shoes along windowsills and doorways and fill them with carrots and straw. They do this with because they are told that this act would lure the horses of the Three Wise Men to their household during the night. They would then leave small gifts under the Christmas tree and treats in the displayed shoes. Children wake up in the morning to collect the gifts and the goodies consisting usually of candied fruits and sweet breads. Some families put one shoe ("sapatinho") of each child next to the chimney (since most of the kitchens in Portugal have one) or next to the fireplace instead of a stocking.

On the Christmas day morning, feast is held. It is known as consoda. Christmas is celebrated in much the same way in Portugal as it is in Spain. The Portugese enjoy an additional feast, called consoada, in the early morning hours of Christmas Day. They set extra places at the table for alminhas a penar ("the souls of the dead"). In some areas crumbs are left on the hearth for these souls, a custom that derives from the ancient practice of entrusting seeds to the dead in hopes that they will provide a bountiful harvest. In Portugal, it is popular custom to set extra places at table for dead souls. Souls are given food gift with the hope of doing well in future.

Many families attend the Midnight Mass (called "Missa do Galo") on Christmas Eve. Thereupon, they gather around the table and have supper (known as "Ceia de Natal"). The menu consists of codfish with boiled potatoes and cabbage. The dessert is mainly "filhoses or filhós" made of fried pumpkin dough; "rabanadas" (much like French toast); "aletria" (a vermicelli sweet with eggs) or "azevias" - round cakes made of a crust filled with a mixture of chick peas, sugar, and orange peel.

Another traditional dessert is "Bolo Rei", a fruitcake having two surprises in them. One is a little present like a fake ring, or a little doll, or a medal; and the other is a raw broad bean. The person who gets the bean has to buy the "Bolo Rei" in the coming year.

On Christmas Day, people eat stuffed for lunch and the traditional desserts. Caroling is quite popular here. On 25th December, carolers sing Christmas carols (called "Janeiras") in the streets in some regions of the country. People wish to each other "Feliz Natal" or "Boas Festas", which means "Merry Christmas" in Portuguese.

 Remarkable among the various New Year traditions in Portugal is the custom of having twelve grapes on the New Years Eve midnight. Portuguese pick and eat twelve grapes from a bunch as the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve. It is believed that this custom would ensure twelve happy months for the coming year.

The festivities end on January 6, "Dia de Reis".