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  • Tony

Christmas in Portugal

The Holiday's started a bit different for us this year. Our Normal Christmas season in the US was usually kicked off by mass commercialism starting around Halloween, leading to the rush of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year in Portugal was a refreshing change. Sure there were a few of the big chain stores that had their Christmas displays up and ready for purchase early, but there didn't seem to be a rush by Portuguese residents running out to buy stuff early. They have their traditions and are sticking to them for the most part. Most of the early shoppers who were hooked in by retailers appeared to be immigrants like us who were in a hurry to decorate their homes for the holidays.

The locals seem to have a very different mind set. Christmas preparation for them begin around December 6th. Remember, Thanksgiving is not celebrated here but the retailers sure do try to capitalize on Black Friday anyway. Here its more of Black week over the last week in November. All the lights and festivities don't get started until the 6th but that date certainly stimulates the Portuguese to come out in big numbers to see the lights and displays.

Tradition in Portugal centers around food and family. Throughout the month you see many more families out together enjoying the activities and decorations while getting a little shopping done too... Because of this traditional, we see that many of the shopping streets and malls compete with decor and activities in order to attract families for shopping, the bigger the shopping area is the grander the displays.

Christmas eve traditions in include large gatherings of family and friends feasting on traditional dishes that most certainly include Bacalao in one or more traditional preparations, but might also feature fresh Octopus, tomato salad, garlic boiled potatoes, etc... At midnight most head to the local church to celebrate midnight mass, then returning home around 2am to begin unwrapping gifts from under the tree. After a long day, sleeping in late on Christmas day is part of the tradition. I assume sleeping in excludes the cooks, who prepare a traditional late lunch including a large roasted turkey, a pork dish or two and a "table full" of sweets, the Portuguese love their sweets, in a popular local pastry shop we saw people picking up several large white boxes filled with traditional cakes and pastries to fill the table

Lights Natal! We traveled around to a few local towns to view the lights and displays.

A little world cup football mixed in with the holidays. Too bad Portugal didn't win but did manage to generate great Portuguese pride throughout the entire country.

We managed to join a few festivities around the Algarve. The Rohla wine bar hosted a fundraiser featuring 5 top chefs from the region serving small bites, and a very cute Christmas market scattered throughout the Village of Porches. The lights in Portimao, Lagos, Alvor, Montes Alvor, and the Algarve jazz orchestra performing christmas carols.

Living statues in Lagoa, an annual Christmas event featuring people spray painted, decorated in costumes, and standing around so others can look at them and drop a few coins in their basket. Sounds like a typical afternoon at Fisherman's Wharf or Hollywood Blvd.

Finding a tree was an experience, from a lost in translation experience buying a tree online to support the volunteer fireman resulted in the delivery of a fairly Charlie Brown tree, to finally finding a resourceful nursery who understood catering to expats needs. Decorating was equally challenging, stores filled with Radko glass ornaments are nowhere to be found so we ended up piecing together found decor at local shops, and Christmas Markets. A little stressful at first starting with zero decor, the process was a joyful journey full of new experiences. With Mary's expertise and supervision from our furry friends, it turned out pretty great!

A quiet Christmas dinner for us at home. Fresh Pappardelle noodles with homemade Carbonara, a nice Portuguese wine, a festive table and the best dining partner in the World. What a great way to celebrate our first Christmas in Portugal. Hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season too...

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