Portuguese Christmas Activities
As in every country where people celebrate Christmas, there are various traditions that make the holiday special for each family. Here are few traditions that your family may enjoy:
Light a Fire
The tradition of burning the ‘cepo de Natal,’ symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness. Portuguese families allow the log to burn all day on Christmas. The tradition of burning a Yule Log is a tradition in many European countries.
If you have a fireplace, put a log on to burn first thing on Christmas morning and keep it burning throughout the day. If you do not have a fireplace, do not fret. The ancient tradition has a 21st century twist--you can get the Yule Log On Demand! Bring the soothing sights (accompanied with Christmas music if you like) of the Yule log into your home on your TV. The Yule Log channel is available on cable, Netflix, and even via mobile device apps. The details can be found here.
Write a Letter to Jesus
Children in Portugal write letters to baby Jesus instead of Santa Claus.
This can be a fun way to get your children to be creative and encourage them to express gratitude. Even young children can dictate a letter to Jesus telling Him what they want for Christmas, for it truly is Jesus Who provides them with their gifts anyway!
Set Your Shoes Out
In many countries around the world, Christians observe Epiphany. In Western Christianity, it commemorates the arrival of the Magi. As with several other European countries, children in Portugal set their shoes out on January 5th, Epiphany Eve. Children will fill the shoes with carrots and straw and place them near windowsills and doors to lure the Magi's horses to their home. The Wise Men then leave small gifts under the tree and in the shoes.
Although many families in the US have taken down their decorations by January 5th, waiting to celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men can be a fun activity for children (and even teens!).
Let Them Eat Cake!
A number of countries celebrate Epiphany with a King Cake. In Portugal, when the Bolo Rei is served, family members wait to see who gets the surprises baked within, usually a coin or toy ring - and another "unlucky" surprise: a raw bean.
Pictured: Bolo Rei, Portugal; King and a Bean; Rosca de Reyes (Spain)
Although a Bolo Rei can be found in any Portuguese supermarket during the holidays. Finding it in your locality may be challenge. There are a number of recipes available online for making your own King Cake. Perhaps baking and consuming a Bolo Rei will turn into a yearly tradition for your family!