In Portugal, Christmas is one of the most awaited festivals of the year. Festive spirit and religious fervor envelop the entire country around this time. The atmosphere is filled with the beauty and richness of the oncoming celebration. Since Catholicism is the predominant religion of the place, Christmas celebrations take place with much pomp and show. Sanctimonious practices, coupled with enthusiasm and celebration, defines Christmas in Portugal. Days before the festival, the country is adored in the Christmas fever, with lights and colorful embellishments everywhere. Want to know more on Portuguese Christmas traditions? Read on and gather all the info!
Christmas Celebration in Portugal
One of the major components of Christmas celebrations in Portugal is the Christmas tree. The tree is charmingly festooned with wonderful items of decoration. Right from lights to small decorative pieces and sometimes, even edibles, Christmas tree is full of amazing stuff, which makes it look extremely gorgeous and striking. Apart from this, each of the Portuguese houses is stunningly adored to celebrate the occasion. A distinctive factor about Portuguese Christmas decoration is that every house has a piece of oak that 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.
Setting up the creche to represent the Nativity is a major custom followed in Portugal, on Christmas. The materials for the creche are traditionally collected by children. While some families only display the three main figures - Infant Jesus, Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, many fancy displaying an elaborate Nativity scene. In the country, Christmas celebration usually starts on the Christmas Eve and is quite similar to the tradition practiced in the West. On Christmas Eve, Portuguese families gather around the Christmas tree and the creche to celebrate the birth of Lord Jesus.
At around midnight, Portuguese people attend the Midnight Mass, which is known as Missa do Galo, after which they head straight to their homes to gather and enjoy over their midnight supper. Known as Ceia de Natal in local language, the menu usually consists of codfish with boiled potatoes and cabbage. They finish off the dessert with filhos, rabanadas, aletria and Bolo Rei. Christmas day begins with feast which is called consoda. A traditional practice that is seen in every Portuguese home is that the people leave additional place in the dining table for those that have left for the heavenly abode. They also gorge on stuffed turkey and traditional dessert on the Day.
Singing carols at home and in the streets is another practice that Portuguese indulge in. They wish to each other "Feliz Natal" or "Boas Festas", which means "Merry Christmas". Gift giving ceremony was not a part of traditional Christmas celebrations and take place on January 6. It is believed that the Three Wise Men and not Santa Claus is the gift-bringer. Children leave their shoes along windowsills and doorways and fill them with carrots and straw on the night of January 5. They believe that this act would lure the horses of the Three Wise Men to their house, during the night. In return, the Three Wise Men would leave small gifts under the Christmas tree and treats in the displayed shoes.