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Christmas ("Natal") in Portugal: Holiday Bonfires and King Cake

Christmas, or "Natal," in Portugal is always wonderful - especially with the weather being so pleasant during this time of year!

Many Portuguese Christmas traditions and practices are familiar, like decorating homes and public spaces with elaborate Christmas trees and Nativity scenes. Some Christmas traditions that are unique to Portuguese culture, however, include the "Madeiros" bonfires and the "Caretos de Varge."

"Madeiros de Natal" are bonfires that are traditionally lit on Christmas Eve; they're generally lit after midnight mass and are meant to burn all night. This tradition is practiced across several cities in Portugal. Locals believe that they are a way to celebrate and welcome the sun in honor of the Winter Solstice.

Caretos de Varge is an old tradition where village boys run around town dressed in pagan masks, causing chaos and making noise in jest all through the town of Varge.

An essential part of Christmas is, of course, the food! A traditional Christmas dinner generally includes salted cod served with vegetables, potatoes, and eggs. What immediately follows for dessert is the traditional Christmas cake called "Bolo Rei," or "King Cake."

If you've ever thought about visiting Portugal, try to visit during the holiday season for a festive time! And make sure to book your trip with SVH Travel. 😉

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