Portuguese Christmas: what’s it all about?

It’s only 9 sleeps until Christmas!! (And 5 until I go home!!) And I can’t freaking wait. It has always been one of my favourite seasons of the year. I mean what’s not to love? You spend the whole time eating, drinking, watching films and have family time. But eating, mostly.

Ever since I moved to England, Christmas has a different meaning and it’s more important to me. Also because British people are obsessed with Christmas, it made me love it even more.

I consider myself very lucky for being able (always with extra financial effort) to go home for Christmas. I know a lot of people that can’t. I’ve been going home for Christmas every year since I moved here, except two years ago, when I couldn’t take the time off work. Even though I had a great time with a close friend and her family, it wasn’t the same.

So, what makes a Portuguese Christmas the best? here’s why:

The main “event” is the evening of the 24th

Yes, like most of Europe, everything happens on the evening of the 24th. I believe this is because we’re all Catholics and there’s a traditional ceremony in church on the night of the 24th “Missa do Galo”. However, I don’t actually know anyone who goes to the church that night.

So, 24th evening, we have dinner with the family. Typically, the main course is Bacalhau (Portuguese for Cod). Now, as you might know, we Portuguese love cod. So much that they say there are 100 ways of cooking it. I don’t know if this is true, as I only can think of about 10 versions. My favourite is Bacalhau com Natas, but on Christmas Night I do love some Bacalhau com Broa (Portuguese Cornbread).

After dinner, and all the food I will talk about below, me and my family normally play games like UNO or Monopoly whilst watching one of the kids’ films that is always on tv and try to distract the kids. You see, that night, they stay awake until late as we do our gift exchange at midnight. So you can imagine they are all pretty excited.

So once we open our presents guess what we do? We eat. Until someone starts to be really tired and leave. Normally it doesn’t happen until about 2 am.

The food.

Bolo rei
Bolo Rei is a traditional Christmas cake.

So let’s go the main point, mostly cause I love eating and I literally can’t wait for it.

Portuguese Christmas tables are always full of food and cakes and desserts. From sonhos (dreams), azevias, filhoses, rabanadas to a lodge, we have everything. And everything is super good.

Sonhos de abóbora It’s eating like there’s no tomorrow.

There’s always monopoly involved.

No matter if it’s the 24th or the 25th, there has to be a monopoly game in the family. And there’s always the one that is the first one losing and getting super angry.

On the 25th you get to that all over again.

Normally, at least with my family and most of the people I know, you spend the 24th with one side of the family, and the 25th with the other (unless you host both families in your house). So it means that the 25th is again, a day spent eating, playing monopoly and watching films.

Contrary to the night before, on the 25th you eat meat. Normally I spend the 25th with my dad’s side of the family and my nana makes the best lamb ever. And I can’t actually wait for that meal. (If you did get it yet, like food, ok?)

So yeah, you might just think, it’s the same as a British Christmas or anywhere else in the world. Yes in part it is, but with different days and traditions. Maybe it’s cause I grew up with this I do think our Christmas is the best (though I wouldn’t mind drinking mulled wine/cider all day and have some Yorkshire puddings with our dinner).

For me, more than spending money on presents (which I don’t really like) I think it’s a time to spend with your loved ones, have fun and relax.

What about you? Any nice traditions you enjoy? What’s Christmas all about for you? Don’t forget to leave a comment below and let me know.

Merry Christmas to you all! That you all have a great time, surrounded by your loved ones ❤

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