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A Portuguese Christmas: What You Can Do To Celebrate At Home

December 17, 2020
There's truly nothing like spending the holidays in Portugal. They have all sorts of traditions, rituals, and more to celebrate Christmas. And they're all so fascinating to see or even experience yourself if you're there. However, going to Portugal now, as the Covid-19 pandemic still looms large, isn't exactly the best idea in the world. You wouldn't want to celebrate the holidays isolated or, even worse, contracting the illness yourself, right? Of course not! So you have to stay at home for Christmas this year! Though, that doesn't mean you still can't have. a Portuguese Christmas with your family and friends there!
A Portuguese Christmas: What You Can Do To Celebrate At Home


The Celebrations are On The 24th

For one thing, the Portuguese start the celebrations on the 24th. People hear midnight mass, put out a grand Christmas feast, drink up, and do all sorts of fun things on Christmas Eve. Many even give out their gifts on Christmas Eve and open them right then and there, including the kids. This is mostly because, for the younger ones, they don't believe in Santa Claus in Portugal. Ultimately, many may argue that all the fun is had on Christmas Eve, while on Christmas Day, things are a lot more toned down but still merry nonetheless.
A Portuguese Christmas: What You Can Do To Celebrate At Home
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Hearing Miss do Gallo

As already mentioned, hearing midnight mass is a big part of Portuguese Christmas celebrations. At times, they even hold it a little earlier, such as 9:00 (21:00) pm or 10:00 (22:00) pm, so that they have more time for holiday fun afterward. As Portugal is one of the more religious Catholic countries in the region, it's no surprise that a mass is as important as, say, a Christmas feast. More often than not, families get dressed up, Christmas carols and hymns are sung, holiday payers are said, and more during this special mass. And once it ends, it's time for dinner, fun, and more!
A Portuguese Christmas: What You Can Do To Celebrate At Home
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Welcoming The Baby Jesus Into The Nativity Scene

One of Portugal's more unique Christmas traditions is to welcome the Baby Jesus into the Nativity scene. And this is done during the midnight mass! In other countries, when they set up the Nativity scene before Christmas Eve, they would already put the Baby Jesus in his manger along with Mother Mary and St. Joseph. But here in Portugal, this isn't done until Missa do Gallo on Christmas Eve. And once the newborn Christ is set with his parents in the scene, people would line up after the mass and kiss the Baby Jesus as a sign of respect and love.
A Portuguese Christmas: What You Can Do To Celebrate At Home
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Serving Bolo Rei

Of course, the same with France, Spain, Italy, and more, sweets are an important part of Portuguese Christmas celebrations. And there's one in particular that most, if not all people here look forward to—Bolo Rei! Translated to English, it's 'King's Cake,' and as a signature dessert for the Portuguese during the holidays. It's often the after-dinner treat served during the Christmas Eve feast! A round pound cake topped with candied fruit, buts, and commonly sprinkled with powdered sugar, the taste alone will bring so much nostalgia to all those who eat it. Often times, it's served on January 6 as well, during 'Dia de Reis,' (Day of the Three Kings).
A Portuguese Christmas: What You Can Do To Celebrate At Home
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Drinking Ginjinha for The Holidays

Apart from sweets, alcohol is also a common treat during the holidays. And the go-to drink for the Portuguese is the Ginjinha! A unique Portuguese alcohol made out of sour cherries, it has a tartness and a certain sweet (yet also sour) kick to it that's perfect to pair with the Christmas feast. Of course, it pairs extremely well with Bolo Rei and other sweet holiday treats the Portuguese commonly serve at this time of the year. Mostly served on short shot glasses, you'll be lucky if you get a cherry or two in your glass!
A Portuguese Christmas: What You Can Do To Celebrate At Home
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The way the Portuguese celebrate Christmas is unlike any other! And just because you can't be in Portugal yourself this coming holiday season, doesn't mean you can't have a Portuguese Christmas with your family in your own home!

For those of you lucky enough to be in Portugal during the holidays but don't have a place to stay, it's not there's still a good number of luxury homes to rent for the season!




Destinations

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