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Portuguese traditions to experience this Christmas

Looking for last minute inspiration for your Christmas holidays? Or do you already have a holiday home in Portugal or Spain? If you’re used to a traditional English Christmas then the way they do things in Portugal couldn’t be more different. So if you’re looking for a way to experience the holidays from a fresh perspective, why not book a mobile home in Portugal and experience Christmas with a difference?
It’s all about Christmas Eve
Like other countries in Europe including France and Italy, the big celebration takes place on Christmas Eve. That’s when Portuguese families gather around the tree and the traditional creche to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
A strongly Catholic country, Portugal puts Jesus firmly at the heart of the celebrations and children believe he delivers their presents – though they’re delivered by Pai Natal (Father Christmas) and left in shoes rather than stockings. Everyone goes to the Midnight Mass and you may find there’s a huge bonfire around which to gather and wish your neighbours “Feliz Natal”.
Enjoy the Consoada
When you’re tucking into your turkey in the UK, the Portuguese will already have feasted on their Christmas dinner. The traditional dish is salt cod boiled with potatoes and cabbage, but many families follow this with delicacies like shellfish and game.
Then it’s time for dessert! Like the famous Provencal tradition of the 13 desserts, the Portuguese love to lay a table with dried fruit and nuts, Bolo-rei or King Cake, similar to an Italian Panettone; Filhoses, a deep fried sweet pastry sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and the most popular of all, Rabanadas, a delicious type of French toast.
But just like in the UK, the day after the feast is all about the leftovers. In Portugal they’re known as roupas velhas or old clothes, but the dish of salt cod, potato and greens is far more tasty than it sounds.
Stunning nativities
Of course, this stunning Iberian country is wonderful at all times of year, but at Christmas, it has a special sparkle. Everywhere there are nativities – in fact, the town of São Paio de Oleiros held the largest mobile nativity scene in the world, thus entering the Guinness Book of Records in 2012. You can follow the Route of the Nativities right down the coast and enjoy the efforts of thousands of volunteers. Why not buy a nativity as a souvenir and introduce it as part of your Christmas festivities in the UK or your holiday home?
Create new traditions
The Portuguese love to create the same sparkle and glitter as we do in the UK with festive light displays. Christmas carols are also extremely popular. But if you want to create some new traditions, a holiday home in the sun could be just the place to put a sunny spin on the festivities.
There’s so much to explore, and with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 10 degrees, why not join the Portuguese locals on the beaches of Nazare or Peniche where the surf is some of the best in the world? There are plenty of sites for caravans and mobile homes from which to explore the beauties of Portugal – perhaps a Boxing Day trip to Porto to taste its classic fortified wines will become your new Christmas tradition?

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