Portugal: Christmas Traditions

In Portugal there is a festive environment  around Christmas, similar to all the other places where this season is celebrated. But most important are the moments that rekindle the spirit of fellowship.

Traditionally families gather on the 24th of December at the dinner table and serve up dishes of cod, although roast turkey and other meat dishes that were enjoyed in the days after have also begun to be part of the menu. For dessert, there is always Bolo Rei (King's Cake) filled with candied fruits or nuts, in addition to delicious traditional fried desserts: "filhós" (traditional deep fried sweet pastry sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon), "sonhos" (traditional deep fried sweet soft pastry normally eaten at Christmas) and "rabanadas" (type of French toast).

At midnight we celebrate the Midnight Mass and in churches, as well as at home, there is a special place for the nativity scene, recreating the stable where Jesus was born, an idea of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century and which is quite common in Portugal.

In some regions, such as Bragança, Guarda and Castelo Branco, a tree is still burnt overnight, a large bonfire in the churchyard. It serves as a meeting place to meet friends and neighbours and wish them a Merry Christmas.

On the 6th of January, on the Three Kings Day, the festivities come to an end with the “Janeiras”. On the street or in monuments and churches, you will hear traditional songs wishing a Happy New Year. 

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