Christmas traditions in Portugal
Christmas is a family affair in Portugal and is celebrated with loved ones. There are numerous Christmas traditions in Portugal that vary from one region to another, some with Norman origins but the majority with catholic origins.
Fire is a very typical element of a Portuguese Christmas. It is customary to light bonfires on Christmas Eve in Portugal and burn wood and logs. The bigger the better. This old tradition symbolises the triumph of light over darkness therefore, the longer the fire burns, the better the New Year will be.
Similarly to Spain, is it also traditional to go to Midnight Mass (Misa do Galo) in Portugal. This evening mass usually ends with church-goers kissing the feet of a baby Jesus statue. In many places, everyone goes out onto the street after the religious service and burns the Christmas log.
It is also a magical evening when “Pai Natal” (Father Christmas) brings presents for the children. Christmas presents are left beside the Nativity scenes or mangers representing the birth of baby Jesus, which almost every household will have over the Christmas season.
Typical Christmas dinner in Portugal
Dinner on Christmas Eve in Portugal usually features cod, a national Portuguese dish par excellence. It is traditionally prepared with cabbage, potato, carrot and eggs, like it was in the olden days. However, it is tradition to eat turkey instead of cod in other areas of Portugal.
Typical snacks consist of octopus and iberian ham, especially in the north portugal. They eat "filhoses” (fried desserts) and the “Bolo Rei” (a cake covered with crystallised fruit, similar to a Spanish Kings’ Cake). They also eat nuts and roast chestnuts accompanied by wine and orujo (herbal or fruit liquor).
During the Christmas Eve dinner, called “Consoada”, some families set up extra places for souls of the deceased, hoping to bring their protection and good fortune for the New Year. This is a very old tradition which doesn’t happen very often now.
If you would like to enjoy a festive environment, typical Portuguese Christmas traditions and spectacular Christmas decorations, then make sure you rent an apartment in Lisbon. It is a perfect destination to celebrate Christmas.