No plans yet for your Christmas holidays? Here are some suggestions for you!
At this time of the year, travelling to Portugal has a special flavor. The entire country comes to life with Christmas entertainment, starting with the lights that bring sparkle and color to the city centers, as in Lisbon or Porto. Pleasant winter temperatures allow people to enjoy time outside to do some shopping at the many fairs and markets selling local crafts and products, to hear choirs singing Christmas carols, and sample some of the tasty, traditional foods eaten at this season.
Looking for family fun? Near Seia, in the Serra da Estrela, visit the Cabeça Christmas Village from December 8th 2023 to January 1st 2024, the first 100% eco-sustainable Christmas village. All the decorative materials used are taken from nature. Go to Óbidos Vila Natal, from November 30th to December 31st, and enter a truly magical world in this beautiful medieval village with its castle and walls. In Santa Maria da Feira, discover Perlim – A Farm of Dreams, where fantasy and surprising shows await. In Alentejo, be surprised by the life-size Monsaraz nativity scene displayed along the cobbled streets of this village.
Following tradition, Portuguese families gather on the 24th of December for dinner (Consoada) and set the table with a towel decorated with Madeira embroidery, and Portuguese faience to serve the main dishes. The menu always includes cod dishes, although roast turkey or octopus are also options. For dessert, you must try Bolo-Rei, made in the shape of a crown, filled and decorated with dry and crystallized fruits, the broas castelares and the traditional fritters such as filhoses (traditional, deep-fried sweet pastry sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon), coscorões, sonhos, or azevias (filled with chickpeas), and rabanadas (a type of French toast).
At midnight, the Rooster’s Mass is celebrated and in churches as well as at home, there is a special place for the nativity scene. Gifts are exchanged after midnight or the following morning, depending on the family.
In Bragança, Guarda, Castelo Branco, Penamacor and Portalegre, a wood log is still burned during the night of December 24th in a large bonfire in the churchyard. It serves as a meeting place to gather friends and neighbors and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
Then there is Madeira, a favorite destination for New Year festivities. The entire island is decorated with myriad multi-colored lights and huge fireworks display heralds the New Year, attracting cruise ships and visitors from all over the world. Can you think of a better way to start the New Year?
After New Year’s Eve, the festivities end on Epiphany, on January 6th. On the street or in monuments and churches, you can hear the janeiras, traditional songs that wish for a good year.
No matter where in Portugal you spend the holidays, you’re guaranteed a colorful and authentically Portuguese Christmas.