Feliz Natal! If Christmas holidays tend to become more uniform all over the world (and that's a pity), Portuguese traditions are still alive. I suggest you discover them through this article....
★ "Consoada", Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve, called "Consoada", begins with a family meal consisting of simple and generally inexpensive dishes. The Portuguese consider that this meal should be humble, without pomp or luxury. The traditional dish is the "bacalhau cozido": cod served with potatoes, cabbage and drizzled with olive oil.
★ "Missa do Galo", the midnight mass
Portugal is a deeply Catholic country and Christmas Eve continues around the midnight mass called "La Missa do Galo", the rooster mass, in memory of the rooster who crowed on the morning of December 25, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
★ The 13 desserts
Then, it's back home for the desserts for which we reserve the most important place. The tradition refers to 13 desserts as the great 13 mage table. Generally, the Portuguese set a whole table for desserts that will remain supplied for several days in order to welcome all the relatives who have come to offer their gifts and to present their wishes.
Bolo Rei: The Kings' cake is a crown of brioche topped with dried and crystallized fruit. Formerly, this cake was served on January 6, the date on which the 3 wise men would have visited the infant Jesus but is now consumed throughout the Christmas season.
Fatias douradas: Slices of stale bread dipped in milk and then fried, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
Arroz doce: Rice pudding, lightly flavoured with lemon and cinnamon.
"Menino Jesus" brings the gifts
Finally, later in the night, begins the distribution of the gifts offered together with an orange, a winter fruit formerly considered very precious and sometimes inlaid with cloves. According to tradition, these gifts are not brought by the "Pai Natal" Santa Claus, but by the "Menino Jesus" Little Jesus.
★ The Christmas tree
Even if today all the traditions tend to standardize, the Christmas tree is less present in Portugal. The Portuguese will prefer to set up a Christmas crib with Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the wise men in front of their house.
★ Christmas dinner
The next day, December 25, the family gets together again. This time, the dishes are more generous and less common. We gather to enjoy roast kid in the oven served with "grelos": turnip greens or "Leitão assado", roast suckling pig.