Feature: Discover Christmas in Portugal

Friday, 25 November 2011 10:18 AM

Christmas is now only one month away and we’re looking forward to all our festive traditions. This got us to wondering how Christmas traditions differ around the world. So, each week we’ve been discovering how Christmas is celebrated in different countries in Europe. Last week we looked at the tradition of Christmas in Spain and this week we’re focusing on Portugal.

Like in Spain, Christmas is a very religious affair in Portugal with many families creating elaborate nativity scenes in their homes and attending church.

The main Christmas meal in Portugal is eaten for lunch on Christmas Eve and traditionally includes salt cod, boiled potatoes and other vegetables. For dessert, the Portuguese serve a circular shaped sweet bread, filled with crystallised fruit and nuts called Bolo-Rei or King Cake, which takes centre place on the table.

The Christmas Eve celebrations usually last well into the night and after they have finished the whole family will attend church for the Missa do Galo or Mass of the Rooster. In the regions of Bragança, Guarda or Castelo Branco, a Yule log is burned in the atrium of the village church after mass. This helps keep everyone warm through the night and is there to wish family and friends a Merry Christmas. Sometimes families will burn a log in their homes too, which you are supposed to keep burning until Christmas Day. The Christmas log is known as Cepo de Natal.

Traditionally Portuguese children used to receive their presents on the morning of the 6 January, from The Three Wise Men or Three Kings as they are sometimes called. On the eve of the 5 January they would leave their shoes at the window sill filled with straw and carrots of the Wise Men’s horses, which they would replace this with presents in return. Nowadays, however most Portuguese children believe in Pai Natal, the Portuguese word for Father Christmas, and usually receive their gifts from him on Christmas Eve after they return from Mass. Some even say that the baby Jesus helps Santa Claus to deliver the presents.

On Christmas Day morning, another feast is held called the consoda, where extra places are set for the alminhas a penar or the souls of the dead. In some places people still scatter crumbs on the hearth for the dead souls, which is supposed to bring them a good harvest for the next year. Other Christmas treats eaten on Christmas Day include rabandas, which are white bread pieces dipped in eggs and wine, then covered in sugar and fried until they become crispy.

So, if you’re heading to Portugal this Christmas or just fancy celebrating the Portuguese way this year, then you’ll be well prepared. Next week we’ll be looking at how Christmas is celebrated in Latvia.

Alternative Christmas markets

Top five alternative Christmas markets

Forget the likes of Germany and Eastern European favourites, Budapest, Krakow and Prague this year and why not head to some alternative Christmas market destinations for something a little different this festive season?

Discover Christmas in Greece

Feature: Discover Christmas in Greece

Christmas is nearly here, less than two weeks to go! If you’re headed off on a short winter break this Christmas, then you may be interested to know how this important holiday is celebrated throughout Europe. Over the last few weeks we’ve discovered how Christmas is celebrated in Spain, Portugal and Latvia, and this week we’re looking at Greece.

Christmas tree in Old Riga, Latvia

Feature: Discover Christmas in Latvia

It’s almost Christmas now and over the past few weeks idealshortbreaks.co.uk have been discovering how the holiday is celebrated all over Europe. So far we’ve looked at Christmas in Spain and Portugal and this week we’re focusing on the small Baltic State of Latvia.

Happy Christmas in Spanish

Feature: Discover Christmas in Spain

Christmas seems to have taken us by surprise this year and is creeping up on us fast. If you’re planning a winter city break then you’ll probably be wondering how the festival is celebrated around Europe. Each week we’ll be looking into how Christmas is celebrated abroad, focusing on a different country each week. This week we’re looking at Spain.

One of the many gorgeous towns you'll visit

Feature: Cultural holiday in Alentejo, Portugal's hidden gem

You've seen Lisbon, you've explored every inch of the Algarve, but we're willing to bet you've never visited the Alentejo region of Portugal. And trust us, you're missing out. Holidaymakers keen to explore fascinating historical towns whilst soaking up some sun should seriously consider a shortbreak to this unforgettable part of the world. Remember who to thank...

The Algarve is a great place for a weekend break

A weekend in the Algarve - What to do

Making the most of a weekend away in a foreign country such as Portugal doesn't have to mean plenty of planning. If individuals are only going to be abroad for two or three days, there are plenty of activities and sightseeing trips for them to pack in.

Christmas lights, London

London’s Christmas light switch-ons

The Christmas season is now officially upon us, so we might as well all embrace the Yuletide glow by attending one of London’s many Christmas light switching on ceremonies. From famous celebrity switch-ons, to carol singers, reindeer, Santa’s grottos and time-honoured traditions here are some of London’s best Christmas light events.

Seeing the best of Portugal in a weekend

Seeing the best of Portugal in a weekend

The Algarve is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal and takes its name from the Arabic Al-Gharb, which means 'The West'.

Coffee with a local in Amsterdam


This week IdealShortBreaks.co.uk is in Amsterdam drinking strong black coffee with local Machteld Ligtvoet, who gives us tips on some of his favourite local haunts – including where you can go to find one of the best views of the city.

Top five alternative Christmas markets

Alternative Christmas markets

Forget the likes of Germany and Eastern European favourites, Budapest, Krakow and Prague this year and why not head to some alternative Christmas market destinations for something a little different this festive season?