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Portuguese Christmas traditions

If you’re going to be spending Christmas in Portugal and don’t know what to expect, this post is for you!

Depending on the country’s religion and beliefs, Christmas is celebrated differently. Portugal is a Catholic country and that is why Christmas is such an important event!

There are Christmas traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation and are a symbol of communion, love, and family!

Find out some Portuguese Christmas traditions and live this celebration like a local!

1 – The Christmas Cribs

In Portugal, Christmas means the birth of Jesus. The nativity scene is displayed in homes, churches, and even on the street for everyone to admire. We recreate the moment, in family, placing the Crib under the Christmas tree.

Christmas Crib Portugal

2 – The Consoada

Portuguese families gather on the night of December 24th for dinner, in which the traditional dish is boiled cod or octopus cooked with potatoes and Portuguese cabbage.
On December 25th, the tradition is to have stuffed turkey. For dessert, you can not miss the ‘Bolo Rei’ (King Cake), and other traditional pastries such as ‘Filhós’, ‘Sonhos’ (dreams) and Rabanadas (french toasts).

Portuguese Christmas Traditions

3 – ‘Bolo Rei’ – The King Cake

The king cake is present on every table at Christmas and symbolizes the gifts offered by the Magi to the Baby Jesus. The crust symbolizes the gold, the dried and crystallized fruits the myrrh and the aroma of the cake the incense.
Each cake has a dry fava bean inside. According to tradition, the person who got the slice of cake with the fava bean has to pay the cake the following year.

Portuguese Christmas Cake

4 – The Mass of the Rooster

After December 24th dinner, it is customary to attend a midnight mass called ‘Missa do Galo’, celebrated at midnight to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s still one of the most important traditions of this season celebrations. After Mass, the tradition is to return home, place the image of the baby Jesus in the crib and begin the exchange of Christmas gifts.

Christmas mass

5 – The Christmas Tree

The first reference of a Christmas tree in Portugal dates back to the 19th century when king consort D. Fernando II decided to have a Christmas tree for his children in the palace and hand out gifts himself dressed as Saint Nicholas. A tradition he brought from his homeland, Germany!

Christmas Tree

Anyone planning a Christmas break vacation should consider visiting Portugal. The sunny days in December are great to explore and enjoy street entertainments, musical concerts and Christmas markets scattered throughout the country.

On The Lisbon’s Christmas lights tour you will walk around Lisbon city center learning about the Christmas traditions in Portugal. A two and a half-hour private tour to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere that is lived this time of the year in Lisbon! From Praça do Comércio with a Christmas tree with 30 meters hight to historic squares, monuments and avenues lit with a total of 2 million and 150 thousand light bulbs you will be amazed by the beauty of the city.

Christmas in Portugal

We all wish you a Merry little Christmas!

Portugal Premium Tours team

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