Feliz Natal, Merry Christmas! The Holiday season in Portugal is celebrated as a time for family, of giving and sharing.
For most Catholics, the period of preparation for Christmas begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Is when the Portuguese start decorating in their homes the Christmas tree and do the crib. The Portuguese love to have cribs in their nativity scenes!
Food, food and more food
On 24th of December, we have the traditional Christmas meal in Portugal, called ‘Consoada’. The consoada main course is usually boiled bacalhau (codfish), potatoes and cabbage or greens with olive oil. The variety and quantity of desserts is usually enormous.
Rice pudding with cinnamon, Rabanadas (very special French Toast), pastries made with syrup or honey called Broas de Mel and Bolo Rei (King’s Cake) are sure to delight anyone with a sweet tooth.
The Bolo Rei has a special place at Christmas celebrations: this very rich wreath-shaped fruit cake covered in crystallised fruits and pine nuts contains a small trinket and a broad bean (fava) – whoever finds the fava must pay for next year’s Bolo Rei.
After the meal, at midnight people go to church for the ‘Missa do Galo‘ or ‘Mass of the Rooster’, to kiss the baby Jesus. When the family return home the kids run to the Christmas tree, where they left one pair of shoes( the shoes are because of the number of kids, and they know exactly where their presents are) to receive the presents.
The day after Christmas Eve is usually a calmer day and most families indulge in a large plate of meat (like a young goat) or turkey. Some families prefer to continue eating cod on Christmas day, and this dish is termed “old clothes” as it’s a dish made from the leftover cod from the night before.