Christmas in Portugal

How do I wish someone there a Happy Christmas?

  • Feliz Natal

When do they give presents?

  • Midnight on Christmas Eve or in the morning on Christmas Day.

Who brings the presents?

  • Children write letters to the baby Jesus asking for presents. Pai Natal (Father Christmas) is also becoming more popular.

What’s on the menu?

  • The Christmas Eve dinner of Consoada traditionally consists of salted cod or another fish. Dessert is Bolo Rei (King’s cake), filled with fruit and nuts.

Any other traditions I should know about?

  • Nativity scenes are the centre of the Christmas decorations. You’ll find them in people’s homes, in towns and even by the side of the road. Many towns also have a live nativity scene, with people dressed as the characters from the Christmas story.
  • Most people go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. There’s often a large bonfire outside the church where people gather with friends.
  • In the north of Portugal people set places at the table on Christmas Eve for recently deceased love ones. Sometimes a candle is left lit throughout the night for the same reason.
  • Children put their shoes out at night on January 5th. They fill them with carrots and straw, hoping to attract the camels of the Three Wise Men, who leave presents in exchange.