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Portuguese Christmas Traditions in Portugal

 What do Jesus, Camels and Shoes Have in Common?

Christmas in Portugal is celebrated almost completely based on Catholicism.  All but six percent of Portuguese people are Catholic, so Christmas customs are very much based on church services, feasts, and Creches.  Traditionally, Christmas in Portugal includes gift-giving in two ways with the practice connected to the Infant Jesus and to the Three Wise Men.

Christmas Eve is a night of great importance during the Christmas season.  Most families gather to build a creche.  Everyone has a part in this sacred tradition from young children gathering materials to the family matriarch supervising each step.  Creches vary from those containing a simple representation of the sacred family to others expanded to include figures of cows, sheep, camels, angels, and villagers. 

Rather than ask Santa for gifts, the children of Portugal count on either the Infant Jesus or The Three Wise Men for gifts and treats.  If the presents arrive with the Infant Jesus, they appear sometime during Christmas Eve night coinciding with the figure of the Infant Jesus being added to the family’s creche.  If the gifts arrive with the Three Wise Men, on the night of 5th January families leave the children’s shoes along windowsills and doorways. To lure the Wise Men’s camels to their houses, children fill their shoes with carrots and straw.  Where camels go, the Wise Men and their gifts will follow.  In the morning, children are likely to find small gifts and sweet treats in their shoes. But no matter whether it’s via the Infant Jesus or Three Wise Men, the practice of gift-giving during Christmas is a much-loved part of the Christmas tradition of Portugal.

From Your Friends at Rooster Camisa, Feliz Natal e boas festas!

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1 comment

  • Thank you! Love learning about my heritage. My grandfather was born on San Jorge. Last name was Silveria, he spelled it wrong when he immigrated and never changed it!

    Patty

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