Portuguese Christmas Traditions in Madeira
From Markets to Childbirth Masses
Madeira, like Portugal and the Azores, has an event-rich calendar all year long. Most of its residents say the most remarkable Madeiran events happen at Christmas. Along with Madeira’s many breathtaking displays of lights, the Night of the Market and the Masses of Childbirth are two Christmas traditions that can’t be missed.
Christmas markets in Madeira are a delightful and diverse display of gorgeous flowers, incredible food in a festive atmosphere. Throughout December, locals and visitors are delighted with these outdoor markets. But the main event is Night of the Market. Taking place on December 23rd, Christmas stands are open all night as people enjoy shopping, eating, drinking and live music. While the whole experience is beautiful, the most enchanted part of the evening is the gathering at the fish market. Each year at 8 p.m., people crowd together at the center square’s fish market to sing Christmas carols. The experience is magical. It’s no wonder Madeira’s Christmas at the Market is gaining in popularity every year.
Another Madeiran Christmas tradition is what’s known as “Missas do Parto” (Masses of Childbirth). Beginning nine days before Christmas, the residents of Madeira’s parishes gather between five and seven in the morning for a special service. The services take place when night turns to day, symbolizing that the Baby Jesus is the light of the world. Each day’s early morning service represents one month of the Virgin Mary’s pregnancy. This tradition dates to the first settlers of the island and remains much beloved.
Despite the early hour of the Childbirth Masses, they are very popular. At the end of each day’s service, churchyards become a place of festive gatherings. Like with all Portuguese celebrations, the food and music are kings. Also served is hot coffee and cocoa, Madeira’s traditional “poncho” and liqueurs. And for the final festive touches, there’s musical entertainment for those taking part in Madeira’s Childbirth Masses!
From your friends at Rooster Camisa, Merry Christmas, Feliz Natal and Happy Holidays.