Saint Claus ('Pai Natal') is believed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve,
rather than Christmas Day. The presents are left under the Christmas Tree or in shoes
next to the fireplace. However, some people say that the presents are brought by the
Baby Jesus rather than Father Christmas.
After the meal, people go to church for the 'Missa do Galo' or “The Rooster’s religious
service” . During the service an image of Baby Jesus is brought out, and everyone
queues up to kiss him. It is then put into the nativity scene (the Presépio) that every
church must have. After the religious service people return home,
and open their presents .
Before leaving for the religious service, parents secretly put Baby
Jesus into the nativity scene in their houses as well as the gifts un-
der the Christmas Tree, so that Jesus will 'miraculously' be in his
manger by the time the family returns home! Children run to check
the nativity scene as soon as they enter the house as no baby Je-
sus means no presents!
Christmas Trees are common now,
but not everyone have a tree up until 70’s. However, the
Nativity Scene (or “Presépio”) is the traditional Christmas
decoration in Portugal, and most families will have a
small one with just the Holy Family and the animals. Of-
ten the scenes have dozens of characters including the
Holy Family, animals, the wise men, shepherds, farmers,
folk characters, etc. Children like to compose the nativity
scene, fetching moss to make the grass and arranging
Some shops and clubs still make huge nativity scenes
with over one hundred figures, waterfalls, windmills that rotate, and lights! People like to
go and see the big scenes.
The “Madeiro “ (Stack of wood)
In the center of Portugal, a special Christmas tradition
called the 'Christmas Madeiro' takes place on Christmas
Eve. The 'boys chosen of the year' (those who are going
to do their military medical test for the military conscription
need to steal wood to make the tallest fire in the church
yard. This fire will be lit just before the Midnight Mass or
during it "to warm Baby Jesus feet"! It also gives people a
warm place to meet friends and chat when they come out
of Midnight Mass. The “Madeiro” is sometimes so big that
it will keep on burning til Christmas Day!
The wood for this Madeiro would rather be stollen - it
should not be bought! If the boys were caught by the
owners of the trees, then they have to pay for it. However, nowadays the wood is nor-
mally paid for after Christmas or it is discretely donated by the boy's parent; or relatives
who tell them where there are some rotten trees , so they can get them from there!
What do you need to know about Portuguese traditional Christmas
The traditional Christmas meal in Portugal is eaten
during the evening of Christmas Eve and consists
of codfish with green vegeta-
bles and boiled potatoes.
This is normally followed by
shellfish, wild meats or other
Every house have a fullfilles
table set in the living room full
with traditional food, cakes,
fried cookies, nuts and other
goodies! Turkey is often the
main dish now. Traditionally it was goat or lamb in
Northern Portugal and pork in the south of the
Each region traditionally has
its own selection of deserts.
In Northern province of
Minho, rich people would
have rich desserts made with
lots of eggs such as
'Lampreia de ovos'. Ordinary people would be
more likely to have something
like rice pudding. French Toast
(called 'Rabanadas') is popular
throughout the country as are
fried dough desserts sprinkled
with sugar and cinnamon like
People drink Porto wine, tradi-
tional liquors and eat 'azevias'
and 'filhozes' (Portuguese biscuits and sweets). The
party lasts until the early hours of the morning!
some wine or brandy.
If you do not open your door, or your
food doesn't correspond to their
taste and expectation (especially if
you're rich), the singers will sing
songs mocking you (like saying
you've got a big nose)!
Normally after enjoying the food, the
January singers will sing a song to
thank the generosity of the hosts,
saying how nice you are and saying
any praising the beautiful girls if
there are curry
After Christmas (and never before!)
during first weeks January’s groups
of people will go from house to
house with an image of Baby Jesus
in his manger singing the 'Janeiras'
songs (January songs). They are
often accompanied with small instru-
ments. They usually start with an
opening song asking the owner of
the house for food and drink! The
owner of the house should invite
them in to warm up and to help
themselves of a spread of snacks
sweet like dry figs with walnuts in-
side or cheese and chorizo and
'Janeiras' songs .
Traditional Christmas meal
On Christmas Day the living
room table remains un-
touched and people still en-
joy their goodies together!
Families come together and
have Christmas Day lunch
The traditional Christmas cake is 'Bolo Rei' (which
means 'King Cake') and is placed in the center of the
table. . Traditionally a fava
bean and a little present on
gift are hidden in the cake.
If you get the present you
are allowed to keep it. But
if you find the fava bean,
you have to pay for the
next care .
Singing the “janeiras”
Traditional Christmas song
Christmas School Party
Merry Christmas Wesołych Świąt
Yeni yılın kutlu olsun Feliz Ano Novo
Feliz Natal Srečno novo leto
Честита нова година
Mutlu Noeller Šťastný Nový Rok
Szczęśliwego nowego roku
Feliz Natal e Feliz ano Novo