A Portuguese Holiday


Christmas in Portugal is a season revolving around the birth of Jesus and gift giving, and tends to favor other Latin American countries. The Portuguese have two celebrations, the Christmas Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, that involve giving gifts to family and friends.

Children wait for the Three Wise Men to bring their gifts on January 5 by leaving out their shoes along windowsills and doorways. The shoes are filled with goodies to attract the Wise Men's horses, in hopes that they will wake up in the morning to find the shoes filled with treats for them instead! Some families, though, acknowledge Santa Claus and the day he arrives.

The Nativity, called a presepio, is very important part of every Portuguese home. Recently, families are including Christmas trees as decoration. The families gather around the Christmas trees until its time for their Missa do Galo (a Mass held at midnight.) Afterwards, they celebrate with a Christmas dinner of codfish, potatoes and Portuguese sprouts, accompanied by red wine.

The holiday season ends on January 6 with the King's Cake, or Bolo-rei, Portugal's version of an Epiphany cake. Whoever finds the bean in their slice of cake has to pay for the cake at the next celebration.






Copyright 2003 Mary E. Bishop