How to Celebrate a Portuguese Style Christmas

Christmas lights in LisbonChristmas in Portugal is the time for families to gather together, celebrate the birth of Jesus and rejoice in the joy of togetherness, love and friendship.

In Portugal the tradition of gift-giving came into being due to the strong Christian religious beliefs of the people. Christmas is celebrated with a lot of pomp and circumstance and Advent wreaths begin to appear on shop windows a month in advance.

The festival is looked forward to, the whole year, as a time for food, fun and friendship and it is the time when most Portuguese people come together with family, friends and loved ones.

Here are some handy hints to celebrate Christmas the way Portuguese do.

A few suggestions

  1. Set up a Nativity scene (Presépio) with Mary, Joseph, the cow and the donkey, the three wise men, and lots of other figures. Have a grand reunion of the family (Consoada) around this while they wait for Father Christmas to arrive.
  2. Get a Christmas tree and decorate it in the typical colors of gold, red, and green. Remember that Lisbon has Europe’s largest Christmas tree.
  3. At midnight go to attend the midnight mass called ‘Missa do Galo” (Rooster’s Mass). Lay on a special Christmas Supper called ‘Ceia de Natal’ which you can partake of when the family returns home after the mass.
  4. The supper should consist of boiled bacalhau (salt cod), boiled potatoes and cabbage. Other typical dishes include rice pudding (arroz doce), French toast (rabanadas), filhoses (fried desserts) and broas de mel (honey cakes).
  5. Remember to bake the traditional desert, the Bolo Rei (King’s cake) which is a fruit cake laced with crystallized fruits and pine nuts baked in the shape of a ring. Hide a little present inside the cake and a dried broad bean and whoever finds the broad bean in their slice must buy the next Bolo Rei.


  • Reserve an empty place at the table for dead relatives.
  • Open presents after the dinner is over on Christmas Eve.
  • On Christmas day, visit friends and family and have a big lunch with roast chicken, lamb or turkey.


  • Do not forget to place the Baby Jesus in the manger in the Nativity scene after coming back from Midnight Mass.

4 Comments about “How to Celebrate a Portuguese Style Christmas”

  1. chuka aka teti bka stacy Says:

    my mother does the same thing every christmas

  2. Carly AKA Hotstuff911 Says:

    Heyyyyyy Ashley ummm I love this website it is totallyyyyyy hott. And I absolutely think that the Portuguese rock!!!!!!!!

  3. Fiona Says:

    Hi Im in Spanish class but I still think this website is veryyyyyyyy awesome!!!!!!! And Im also not Portuguese. But WHO CARES! HHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHHAA LOL I love Christmas !!!!!!!1! Thank you have a nice day

  4. idk Says:

    i like yalls moms

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