On Christmas Eve Portuguese families gather around the Christmas tree and the Crèche to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Catholicism is the main religion in Portugal.
Traditionally,children are incharge ofcollectingmaterials forthe Crèche.Manyfamilies onlydisplay thethree mainfigures, InfantJesus, VirginMary and St.Joseph.
Many families attend the Midnight Mass(called "Missa do Galo"). After mass theygather around the table and have supper(called "Ceia de Natal"). On Christmas Eve,supper (called "Consoada") consists of codfishwith boiled potatoes and cabbage.
After the meal, people eattraditional fried desserts:"filhoses or filhós" aremade of fried pumpkindough; "rabanadas" aresimilar to french toast;"azevias" are round cakesmade of a crust filled witha mixture of chick peas,sugar, and orange peel;"aletria" is a vermicellisweet with eggs (typical ofDouro and Minho region).
Another traditional dessert is "Bolo Rei". This isa fruitcake that is typically a New Years cake,but is becoming popular during ChristmasHolidays. In the cake there are two surprises:one is a little present like a fake ring, or a littledoll, or a medal. The other is not as welcomed.There is a raw broad bean. Whoever gets thisbean has to buy the "Bolo Rei" in the comingyear. In addition to these desserts there aremany other that differ from region to region.
Some families will open thepresents (that are displayedaround the Christmas tree) onChristmas Eve aroundmidnight. Others open themin the morning of the 25th,Christmas Day. Some familiesput one shoe ("sapatinho") ofeach child next to the chimney(since most of the kitchens inPortugal have one) or next tothe fireplace instead of astocking.
On Christmas Day, the feast is known asConsoda, where extra places are set at thetable for the souls of the dead. It is believedthat gifting food to ancestors souls will makethem bless the household with good fortunefor the coming year.
The Three Kings (not the Santa) thenleave gifts and treats for the childrenin their shoes, which they usually findin the morning and consist of candiedfruits and sweet breads.