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An Algarve Christmas - Food and more food...

An Algarve Christmas - Food and more food...

Ever considered escaping the Christmas chaos and spending nice, easy and relaxing holiday season away? Or maybe taking the family out of where its chilly to celebrate in the sun? If you like the feeling of Christmas, but prefer less stress - then the sunny Algarve may be a place you want to give a try. Here's are few reasons why...

In southern Portugal you may not get the snowy white Christmas you may get elsewhere, but how about waking up on Christmas day and seeing a bright and sunny blue sky outside, then taking a stroll on miles of beach? Although not typical Christmas winter weather, it's the kind of change that can do the mind and body good. And worry not...the chubby man in red knows his way to southern Portugal too, he's a popular favorite and does his rounds yearly. Although the Portuguese have a slightly different and more quaint way of celebrating Christmas it's one a foreigner can easily adapt to and savor as well.


The holiday season is a major part of Portuguese culture with many Portuguese towns holding Christmas nativity scenes and parties organized by local communities, which are open for the public to enjoy. The most popular being in the old market town of Vila Real de Santo António on the Spanish border which attracts visitors from all corners of Portugal.

Food is the major part of Portuguese Christmas, and although many areas of Portugal have different traditions on what is served during this period one ritual that connects the entire country is eating Christmas Codfish for dinner on December 24th, as no meat is to be had before Christmas day. After dinner many religious families head to church to take part in a midnight mass "Missa". After mass, or at midnight for those not religious, everyone comes together to open gifts around the Christmas tree. Gift opening is usually followed by the second meal of the evening where meat is served. In the Algarve it's quite traditional to have pork and clams followed by seafood and a large selection of home made desserts.


Christmas day in Portugal is very similar to Christmas day in the UK and elsewhere, with visits to family and friends to distribute more presents. Following this the food traditions begin again for a second day. Christmas day families normally enjoy a 4+course meal with appetizers, soup and traditional roast turkey, or suckling pig dinner with all the trimmings. After the main course another round of desserts. Here deserts can be very sugary sweet, some may be fried and stuffed with spiced nutting fillings, and variety of others such as creme caramel type puddings, egg based cakes and desserts are also quite popular and so is Bolo Rei or "King Cake" when translated into english. Bolo Rei a very old tradition in Portugal, based on a sweet bread cake with eggs, nuts, dried fruits, raisins and topped with candied fruit and powdered sugar and is traditionally eaten between 25th of December (Nativity) and January the 6th (Epiphany). Bolo rei and the dessert part of the meal is often enjoyed with a strong Portuguese coffee, or tea, and often a little cheirinho (alcoholic shot) of medronho, port or other from the wide selection of Portuguese digestives.

It's understandable many choose to follow the same Christmas plans and traditions as Grandma did. If however you get to December and need a winter break, but still want a feeling of home and tradition, with a small slice of adventure and no sub zero temperatures - Portugal may be the place for you. It's definitely for you if you love a strong food culture and being surrounded by great weather and warm people. Family and friends you can always bring along with you, or make new ones who'll want to feed you. You never know, you may even find yourself wanting to stay longer or making it a yearly place for your holidays, and starting an entirely a new tradition! 




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