do you say Merry Christmas in Portugal ?"Feliz
holidays are very important to the Portuguese. They
are a time
of family, of light. Of giving and of song. Scenes
of the Nativity, or the Crèche, are seen in
every small town and house. Some towns mount a living
Nativity Scene, with locals in all the key parts, and
animals all set around the birth of Christ.
On Christmas Eve, a family dinner or "Consoada" is
celebrated with boiled codfish and potatoes with
cabbage and other vegetables. After the meal, people
eat traditional fried desserts: "filhoses or
filhós" are made of fried pumpkin dough; "rabanadas" bread
that is mixed with egg and syrup; "azevias" are
round cakes made of a crust filled with a mixture
of chick peas, sugar, and orange peel; "aletria" is
a vermicelli sweet with eggs, typical of Norte region.
the holiday season towns are decorated with lights.
The festivities end on January 6, "Dia
The Janeiras is a Portuguese tradition consists
of a group of people strolling the streets of a
town singing in the New Year. To the modern eye,
Janeiras is like Christmas caroling as this tradition
involves a group of friends or neighbors going
from house to house singing and sometimes playing
Traditionally, people go out to the streets to
sing Janeiras between December 25 and January 6.
While singing, they review the most important events
of the year with a spirit of happiness and great
Once the song is done the singers are rewarded
with chestnuts, nuts, apples, and cured sausages.
These days, chocolates are often offered too. The
Janeiras tradition varies from region to region.
In the Algarve, residents form charolas, which
are spontaneously formed groups that join together
to sing songs of both a religious and a secular
nature. Also in the Algarve, singers receive traditional
alms such as one of the seasonal sweet fritters
or a glass of brandy. Every year, the municipality
of Silves has a festival in January to welcome
in the New Year by singing.
The Janeiras songs will vary from town to town,
but one version is: Let us sing the janeiras For
the field in which we travel The wind comes and
luck changes And snow falls in the hills, And only
memories remain of the old trails.
In addition, Portugal has a variety of holiday
desserts that differ from region to region. Bolo
Rei (King Cake) is a particular favorite of the
Portuguese during Christmas and is traditionally
eaten on January 6, during Epiphany. It is a round
cake glazed with fruits, nuts and sugar. Whoever
gets the bean has to buy the "Bolo Rei" (King
Cake) in the coming year.
The walled Centro town of Penela will offer Portugal's largest living Creche,
with locals in the rolls of the family of Christ, Shepard, and onlookers,
recreating the Nativity Scene in Bethlehem. The Living Creche is open to
the public from December 12th to January 03, 2010.
To add to the celebration, the town will hold a Creche contest for popular
and traditional Creches - and all entries will be on display as well. The making
of Creches is a part of Portuguese popular culture, dating back centuries.
Creches by Machado de Castro, born near Penela in
Coimbra, are considered today high art. Machado de
Castro had an art school in Coimbra where the main
art museum named in his honor. A major holiday tradition
in Penal and around the country is setting up the
Creche. The materials for the Creche are often collected
by children. While some families revel in displaying
an elaborate scene with not only the three main figures
but also the Three Wise Kings, the shepherd and the
sheep, complete with lakes (made with mirrors) and
hills (made with rocks, moss, and clay).