Christmas Traditions in Portugal

Christmas Traditions – Portugal

Olá a todos! Hello everyone! Ho-Ho-Ho! The festive season is upon us and with it, all the amazing Christmas Traditions around the world. Portugal is no different and I will be bringing to your plate all the lovely things we do in this beautiful country. 

24 de Dezembro – A consoada

The 24th of December is the most important date for us, as we get together with our families and friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We eat dinner together – which we call Ceia de Natal or Consoada – and everybody tends to be joyful and happy. Some families pray before dinner to thank God and Jesus for all the good things in their lives and whatever they see fit.

Christmas Traditions - Portugal

Christmas Food In Portugal

During this meal you can eat a lot of Portuguese traditional food. Most families eat Bacalhau cozido – boiled cod with potatoes and vegetables. Some other families prefer to eat Peru, which is turkey generally served with potatoes and rice. 

For dessert, we have Bolo Rei – a cake filled with dried and crystallised fruit and that tastes super good! We also eat aletria (a kind of sweet noodles), arroz doce (rice pudding) and rabanadas (something like french toast).

My favourite, though, is called Pão de Ló – made with eggs and tasting a bit like a sponge cake. For those who want a healthier snack, though, you can try abacaxi, a sweet pineapple.

Christmas Traditions - Portugal

Father Christmas in Portugal – The presents!

At midnight, after the dinner, people get together again near the fireplace – lareira or – if there is no fire place – anywhere cozy in the house, normally around the Christmas tree – Árvore de Natal

There, they wait for Pai Natal – Father Christmas or Santa Claus – to bring the presents. Children are the most excited, of course! But do not think adults don’t enjoy it too! We do! A lot! 

It is tradition in Portugal to give presents to the younger ones, but some families extend it to the grown-ups as well. In my family, all are included in the exchange of gifts.

Christmas Traditions - Portugal Christmas Traditions - Portugal

Missa do Galo – An old tradition

Especially in certain regions of Portugal, Missa do Galo is an old tradition still very much alive! It is a catholic midnight mass, where families gather in church to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Normally, it ends with children and adults kissing Jesus’ statue to honor Him. During this celebration songs are sang and the Presépio – Nativity Set – is the centre of attention as a sign of Jesus being born.

Christmas Traditions - Portugal

25 de Dezembro – Dia de Natal

On Christmas Day, Portuguese people go to Church as well. At lunch time, they gather with their families again and have Christmas lunch together.

Some typical dishes of Christmas Day include Peru and Roupa Velha. Roupa Velha – literally meaning “Old Clothes” – is made from the leftovers of Bacalhau and Batatas (Potatoes) from the day before.

For dessert, Portuguese people typically eat the leftovers from the night before. We also drink Vinho do Porto – Port Wine – at least in my house!

During the afternoon, we watch movies (the classic movie for Christmas here was “Home Alone” and “Sound of Music” for many years, now we have “Harry Potter” and “Mamma Mia”!) and play board games. We also like to see old pictures and take some funny photographs. Everyone has a different tradition, but what matters is to be with the ones you love!

Christmas Traditions - Portugal

Changing Traditions 

As much as old traditions come to life in Christmas, a lot of new ones are constantly being born!

Nowadays there are more and more people celebrating Christmas in a hotel, with family or friends. These tend to be people who are not as conservative and that don’t mind spending a different holiday.

On the other hand, there are many Portuguese that prefer spending their Christmas volunteering and sharing their time with people in need. In fact, I thought of doing so one time and help distributing soup to those in need. But – believe it or not – I was too late because they already had too many volunteers! Yay, that is good, right?

Besides, not everyone is Christian in Portugal and those who aren’t still tend to celebrate this date, even if not from a Christian point of view. They still get together with their families and perhaps do different things. 

Christmas Traditions - Portugal

Christmas Around the World

I guess that Christmas in Portugal is a bit similar to many other Christmases in other countries. But also very different from other places.

How is your Christmas? Could you tell me more about it in the comments below?

For now, I hope you enjoyed knowing about Christmas traditions in Portugal and I leave you today wishing you all a Merry Christmas, or as we say in Portuguese – Bom Natal!



Christmas Traditions - Portugal

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Categories: Culture

8 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions – Portugal

  1. Hi Mia,
    Here in the UK all the cele rations take place on the 25th December. We open our presents, have roast turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, and cheese and biscuits with port. The meal lasts most of the day!
    Those who go to church may do so on Christmas eve, and/or Christmas morning.
    I hope you have a good time this Christmas I’m sure I will, but I will carry on studying your course, even for a short time on Christmas day, as I try to practice every day if I can.
    Feliz Natal!

    1. Wow Suzanne 🙂 Thank you for letting me know how things are in the UK over Christmas. Those are really nice traditions too!
      And did you manage to study Portuguese? I know I get a little bit slower around this time of the year, so I won’t blame you if you haven’t done it hehe.

      I do hope you had a lovely Christmas and that your New Year will also be awesome.


  2. Thank you for this article. This will be my last Christmas in America, so I’m very interested to know how it is celebrated in Portugal. For me, I will spend Christmas morning with my daughter and her family, opening gifts and having breakfast together. Later in the day, I will Christmas dinner with a friend who has no family in town. Bom Natal to you and your family.

    1. Hi Susan,
      thank you for your comment!
      I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To you and all your family and friends!
      Bom Natal e Feliz Ano Novo.

  3. Ola Mia,
    It was nice to know your country traditions,wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance

    1. Olá Hamed,

      thank you very much for your comment. I am happy you liked the article =)
      I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
      Feliz Natal e Bom Ano Novo!


  4. Ola Mia!
    I am surprised that peru is a thing in Portugal! I always thought of it as being more American. We had a big Thanksgiving dinner with the friend we are living with and his friends with turkey wrapped in prosciutto which was really good. (I’m not a big fan of the peru, myself!) The Christmas traditions you describe are very familiar since I had a very German upbringing as my Dad was from Bavaria. We are still waiting for our resident visa approval which we hope will come soon. We had so hoped to be living in our new place in Gaia by now but, alas government moves slowly! For Christmas we are going to stay at a hotel that we like in downtown Denver to get away from it all, a staycation, if you will! Just our little family, myself, my husband and our four legged friend Jiver! (um cao muito bonito!) I am hoping that we can secure your services for some tutoring after the holidays. Esperamos estar em Portugal em breve! Bom Natal!

    1. Hi Lisa!
      Thank you for sharing your Christmas plans with me 🙂 I see that in the US is also not uncommon to spend it at a hotel? I prefer to spend it at home, but I can see how sometimes it makes sense to have it somewhere else. Especially when you want to escape from it all 😉
      I wish you a merry Christmas with your little family and I hope that you will be here soon as you wish! Let me know when you are around and maybe we can meet.
      See you soon!

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