It smells like Christmas, it's from Portugal!
Portugal, in the corner of Europe, a paradise by the sea, surprises us every season of the year, but when Christmas arrives, we discover the most beautiful traditions always with a focus on family spirit.
Arriving in the North, via Francisco Sá Carneiro airport, in Porto, with almost 90 destinations, or in the Center, via Humberto Delgado airport, in Lisbon, which connects us to more than 191 destinations, the destinations in Portugal are varied.
From Trás-os-Montes to Alentejo, logs that burn the entire night of December 24 are common. Large bonfires are lit in the halls of churches and gather and warm, around them, the believers who attended the Missa do Galo.
In Trás-os-Montes, the tradition of the Caretos de Varge and Ousilhão livens up the streets in this season, after the Christmas mass. The local boys wear masks with grimaces, to the sound of their rattles and a piper with a bass drum and a snare drum. Hay and water from the fountains are thrown at the people who watch, and the girls are “squashed”.
Going down the map, in the Central Region of the country, we find Alenquer. A picturesque village planted on a hillside, like the small houses representing the nativity scene. Alenquer truly is the Nativity Town because on its hillside, and in honor of the victims of the historical floods of 1967, a giant nativity scene that brings the village to life is set up at Christmas. With a program for children and adults, Alenquer is a mandatory stop during this season.
We cannot forget Óbidos, the Christmas Town. Within the castle walls, every year, a great event is held to the delight of the little ones, with elf workshops and stories about Santa Claus.
On São Miguel Island, in the Azores, there is a peculiar tradition of groups of men and women on pilgrimage, from house to house, visiting family and friends to taste traditional delicacies. To enter, one must ask: “Does the boy piss?”. This practice led to the traditional liqueur of the island with the same name.
In Madeira as well, Christmas is celebrated with pomp and circumstance, with the traditional street markets alluding to the season, cribs, concerts and the monumental fireworks display on New Year's Eve.
Lights, parties, and celebrations can be found all over the country, but the ex libris of Portuguese Christmas is at the table.
The famous boiled cod (a generous piece of cod with potatoes, carrots, vegetables, and boiled eggs, all drizzled with olive oil) is the star of Christmas Eve and the roasted turkey is already present in some suppers. However, depending on the area of the country, there are some variants, such as the octopus cooked with vegetables in Minho, Douro, and Trás-os-Montes, the roasted goat in Beiras, and the lamb in the Algarve.
The desserts are delightful: from the french toasts or "fatias paridas" to the "sonhos" or "filhoses", the Christmas log, the egg lamprey, the king and queen cakes, "aletria", "azevias", cream milk, and "coscorões", the hard part is deciding where to start.
When Christmas arrives, these are some of the countless sweets that we can easily find in any cafe, pastry shop, or restaurant, and certainly at the table of all Portuguese people.