Portuguese Christmas Traditions

Every country has amazing traditions and, of course, we do too. I believe our traditions are simple but very warming because it brings memories of the good old times around this time of year.

  • Christmas Eve


On Christmas eve from 24th to 25th, we host a very special dinner with all our guests. We prearrange with our family members and decide which house we host the Christmas eve. Because the people around the table are so many, the food we prepare is equally colossal.

It’s normal that stores close earlier on this day because the employees want to be with their family, so do your Christmas shopping early, please! It is also normal to find stores closed on December 25th, because everyone is with their families.

Normally a Christmas dinner has roasted codfish with potatoes, and also a roasted stuffed turkey. If this is not enough, we usually have as a dessert sweet rice, our traditional king cake (stuffed with crystallized fruits), Christmas log, egg lamprey, and many others.

If you are hungry, in between snacks we have honey or cornbread, rabanadas, nuts and other dried fruits to choose from. You can also eat deserts in between meals of course if you have a sweet tooth.

On Christmas day we only eat the leftovers from the day before, because it is believed to bring good luck to the family. This day also means the family comes by to visit you again and share good times, together.

  • The Nativity Scene


It’s very important for families to put together a nativity scene, or “presépio”. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, this addition stopped. Sometimes the families are not so religious, so they stopped doing it, or our pets simply “invaded” the scene and broke every piece. Anyway, if you want to have a nativity scene to be proud of, you need to go to the forest and collect some moss. Your nativity scene will not be taken seriously if you don’t have this!

  • Exchanging Presents


The gift exchange is always amusing to watch. It’s a wonderful part of the year, and the presents are great. Remember, if you don’t know what to offer, perfumes usually does the trick!

We normally open the presents at midnight, or earlier if the children don’t stop asking when it’s midnight. With children, I believe that Christmas Eve is more magical because we can see the smiles on their faces when they receive the present they’ve always wanted.

  • Rooster Mass

Mosteiro de Sao Bento

It’s very common for religious people to go to church on Christmas eve. After the rooster mass, they come back home and then eat “consoada” (late dinner). Unfortunately, I don’t know what do they talk about in that mass, but I believe they say powerful words.

  • Christmas Tree


I love how we decorate the Christmas tree (and our house). The house becomes illuminated at night and the wars between neighbors reach new highs, year after year. What should be an amazing and peaceful task turned into a war between family members and other houses. Remember to beat that new set of light of our uncle, mom!

Fortunately for the trees, we commonly invest in trees made of plastic, It’s not common at all to cut trees and put them in our living rooms. We decorate our houses normally from the beginning of December till January 6th. However, in the last few years, we started to decorate our houses in November due to the push of retail stores, since they now want to have Christmas sales for two months in a year.

  • Christmas Log


In small villages, it’s very common to start a fire with a huge log. This log is used nowadays to bring people together around the fire and talk or sing. The log also helped mom and pop stores in the last few years, because people spent some money while they were around the fire.

  • New Traditions


Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly hard for families to be together. Some companies don’t even let employees reunite with their family until dinner time. Because of this, more and more families are deciding to spend the Christmas eve dinner in a hotel. Families prefer this way because they don’t need to spend time preparing the food and it’s almost guaranteed that the food will taste good.

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