Christmas Traditions in Algarve
It’s Christmas time, and it’s another opportunity for Portugal to show the way it can bring together the international and globalised traditions of the season with its own remote traditions. As in many other aspects, it’s a very interesting trait of the Portuguese modern culture and way to live. Apparently, the American Santa Claus and the Christ Child (or “Baby Jesus”, as it’s more frequently called) can co-exist in peace and harmony, as there is no big scale animosity between them. After all, it’s Christmas, time for peace, harmony, and co-existence, right?
Modern times brought a progressive secularisation of Christmas, along with the secularisation of society itself. However, the Portuguese remain very attached to the season. You could see the town halls, malls, and stores competing to offer the best Christmas attractions. The holidays are sacred, for both believers and skeptics. At the same time, everywhere you can find representations of the “Presépio” (the Nativity scene).
Christmas does not end in the 25th
The fact is that Christmas traditions do not stop at the 25th; actually, this was traditionally considered the first day of the Christmas season, which stretched up to the Epiphany, of King’s Day. Tradition says people go out in small groups singing the “Janeiras” (loosely translated as “the Januaries”) for everyone to listen; traditional Christmas and New Year carols, about the birth of Christ and wishing a prosperous New Year. The singers might be invited to share the remainings of the Christmas feasts, or just to drink a glass of wine or brandy – and Algarve has the unique arbutus brandy, or “medronho” as it’s locally known.
Another strong tradition in Algarve is the “charolas”, similar to the “Janeiras” but being verses and rhymes, about the birth of the Savior and the voyage of the Three Wise Men or Kings (in Portugal they’re called both, as Wise Kings). You can expect to find organised “meetings of Charolas” in places like Vila Nova de Cacela, Estói, Marim, Santa Bárbara de Nexe, and S. Brás de Alportel, and more prominent events of the kind in Faro and Tavira.
Enjoy the best of the region and have a Merry Christmas!