Most families prepare well before Christmas by decorating their home, with the traditional nativity scene with donkey, cow, Mother Mary and of course Baby Jesus. Baby Jesus is placed in the crib after midnight on the 24th of December.
As here in the Algarve we are lucky to have warm weather most of the year, families normally opt for the reusable plastic trees, they are very realistic and can be used every year. Decorations vary from borbols to traditional wooden decorations, lights, tinsel, a way of getting the family together to decorate, especially the little ones enjoy hanging decorations sometimes even ones made at school.
Some families even have a mini Christmas village decorated and lit up for the occasion!
A Portuguese Christmas isn't complete without the traditional Codfish and copious amounts of deserts.
There are literally hundreds of recipes for codfish in Portugal.
Although codfish originates from Norway or Canada, it has been a traditional Christmas dish for hundreds of years; preparation starts well before Christmas as the cod has to soak in water for a couple of days, changing the water regularly.
Traditionally on the 24th the main dish is cooked codfish with boiled potatoes, eggs and cabbage. In the north of the country and also some other regions, octopus in the oven is also a main dish served with potatoes.
Portuguese cuisine is also known for its sumptuous deserts, at Christmas especially, there are dozens of pastries and cakes, homemade delicious sweet potato pasteis also known as azevias, broas, bolo rei ( the Kings cake), with crystalized fruit. Here are just some examples of traditional sweets:
Rice Puding/ Sonhos( dreams)- pastry
Rabanadas/ Doce de Ovo
Coscorões/ Azevias- Sweet Potato and Chic pea fried pasteries
At midnight Father Christmas comes to deliver the presents, children go and hide whilst Pai Natal leaves the presents for the children who have been good and then hurries onto the next house. for the kids this is when then the fun begins!
Children have waited all evening for this moment! In the north of Portugal tradition is a little different as shoes are left by the fire-place and children wake to find presents the next morning.
Bolo Rei- Chistmas cake with cristalised friut
On the 25th as there are so many cakes and pastries left over from the night before, traditionally they stay on the table and some are eaten with a cup of coffee for breakfast! The feast continues at lunch time, traditionally roasted and stuffed Turkey or chicken with potatoes chest nuts and vegetables, also a traditional dish is cabidela (made with poultry or rabbit cooked in its own blood added to water and a bit of vinegar. Although it sounds frightening, it is delicious!)
Children get time to play with their new toys, board games are played, Christmas music is played whilst everyone enjoys family time.
For dinner, if anyone is till hungry! traditionally the Cod left over from the 24th is de-boned, vegetables are chopped up , boiled eggs are added, seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil all mixed up in a bowl. there are always mixed nuts and fruit in case anyone has room for an extra snack.
All in all it is a time for celebration, a huge feast, time to spend with friends and family and enjoy.
The Freemaps team wishes you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And may you all have the pleasure of passing the festivities with dear friends and loved ones!