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collection by ICAF Europe


Contributors: Maria Manuel Valagao, Maria Quinta, Fernanda Quinta, Joana Gomes da Silva

Introduction: *
In Portugal, as in many other countries, Christmas is a time of gathering together with parents for a warm family celebration, the consoada. It is also the time for enjoying the traditional Christmas gastronomy. The main holiday celebration takes place on Christmas Eve with a gathering around the table, the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene or Presepio to celebrate the birth of Jesus, followed by attending midnight mass (called the Missa do Galo). Some families will open the presents (that have been displayed around the Christmas tree) on Christmas Eve around midnight. Others open them on the morning of the 25th, Christmas Day. Some families put one shoe (sapatinho) of each child next to the chimney (and most of the traditional kitchens in Portugal would have a chimney). Depending on the beliefs in that household, either Baby Jesus or Santa Claus comes down the chimney to fill the sabatinhos with little gifts. However, this is more difficult these days when so many families live in urban flats. What each such flat-dwelling family does about this varies, just as it does today with hanging up Christmas stockings in the English-speaking countries.

The Christmas Eve celebratory meal, the consoada, consists of cod (bacalhau) with boiled potatoes, cabbage and olive oil, followed by the traditional sweet desserts: filhoses or filhˇs, rabanadas, sonhos, azevias or rice pudding (arroz doce).

Then, for the lunch on Christmas Day, the living room table remains untouched from the night before and the families enjoy their goodies together. Often the lunch consists of the remains of the meal of the previous evening, with stuffed turkey, followed by the holiday sweets.

However, as elsewhere in Europe, Portugal has regional differences; for example, in the Douro and Minho region, the traditional salt cod dish of the consoada may be followed by a dish of octopus. Or, in the southern region of the Algarve, the Christmas Day lunch might include different kinds of seafood and fried pork meat with clams. In addition to the desserts already mentioned there are many others that differ from region to region, such as the Empanadilhas (Sweet Potato Pies) from the south region-Algarve, or the aletria, which is sweet vermicelli with eggs and is typical of the Douro and Minho region. In many family homes in Portugal, a constant replacement of the desserts is laid out on the dining table up until the 6th of January, Epiphany. For each of the recipes below we have made a brief note on regional preference.

The recipes in this section for Portugal are traditional and well-known to the relevant contributor. However, Maria Valagao wishes to mention that she also used the book by Modesto (1982) ** for inspiration. Others might be interested to know of this volume.

* (c)Copyright 2008 Maria Manuel Valagao, Helen Macbeth. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute copies of this Introduction to recipes for Portugal solely for the purposes of non-profit domestic use or non-profit educational purposes in either case provided that copies are distributed at or below cost and that the author's source and copyright notice are included on each copy.

** Modesto, M de L. (1982) Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa, Lisbon, Editorial Verbo.