Portugal – A European Christmas Story

I was born in the Northern Portuguese City of Porto. 

In Portugal food is a big part of the culture and family life. On Christmas Day, we eat polvo (octopus) for lunch and have cabrito, which is roasted goat kid, for our evening meal.

During Christmas time, I remember my (Avo) grandmother preparing a dish called Bacalhau: dried salted cod fish soaked overnight; this is a traditional dish eaten at Christmas Eve.  We would also have other dishes including rabanadas that is thick bread soaked in wine, milk, cinnamon and then this would be fried. 

Christmas Eve was the time when gifts would be exchanged between family and friends.  We exchange gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve. I am 18 now and don’t remember if they used to say that Father Christmas had brought presents when I was younger. Every year, my mum would create a Christmas Day at my home in the UK before I flew to Portugal and I would open my presents from ‘Santa’ on our pretend Christmas morning (even though it might be December 21st or 22nd!).

In Portugal, my family have a Christmas tree decorated in the same style as in the UK and the towns have Christmas lights just the same as here. Of course, Portugal is a Catholic country so this is central to the festive celebrations and my grandparents will go to a missa (service) at their local igreja (church) on Christmas morning.

I love spending Christmas in Portugal with my family as each year I won’t have seen them since the summer holidays so it is a very special time.  And because I also have a pretend Christmas Day at home with my mum and family in the UK, I have the best of both worlds!!

A personal story:

By Eduardo Ferreira 

Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?

The traditional meal at Christmas in Portugal is Bacalhau that is known as dried salted cod fish that is Eaten on Christmas Eve.  We also eat polvo (Octopus) on Christmas Day for lunch and roasted Goat for our evening meal.   For dessert, we would have Bolo Rei which is a sweet bread with dried fruits and nuts, topped with candied fruit and powdered sugar.

Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?

Spending Christmas in Portugal with family each year is a very special time for me with family and seeing my grandmother preparing traditional food: Bacalhau.

Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family?

Various gifts are exchanged at Christmas time between families.

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