The Madeiran Christmas
Christmas in Madeira Islands has a special charm, almost unique in the world. It’s celebrated with joy, colour and lots of enthusiasm. Christmas is the most important time of the year, a time to celebrate customs and traditions in a tribute to folklore and legacy of the inhabitants. Everything revolves around the “Festa” (the Festivity), and arrival of the month of December is most eagerly awaited by all.
The Christian traditions, during Christmas and New Year season are genuinely associated with the customs of the locals. Throughout the month of December until the Three Kings day, held on January 6th, this festive season is lived with a special feeling, combining religious ceremonies with the joy for the arrival of a new year, a time of year marked with a rich programme filled with cultural, ethnographic and artistic events.
The placing of the decorative illuminations indicates the beginning of the Christmas and End of Year festivities. Funchal, as well as in many other villages around the island, are filled with thousands of lights and street decorations, in a unique vision of the overall joyfulness that is felt in the streets.
By this time houses are meticulously arranged and lovely decorated with the traditional “lapinhas” (cribs), in addition to the making of a Christmas tree. The typical delicacies of this festive season begin to be prepared, for instance the “broas” (honey biscuits) and “bolo de mel” (honey cake), liqueurs and the “carne de vinho e alhos” (pork in wine and garlic), and flowers and seasonal fruits are bought. A unique sweet-scented experience that is commonly designated by locals with a popular saying: It already smells like Christmas!
The main capital – Funchal is transformed into a life-size nativity scene, given the natural features of its amphitheatre contour, from which floral decorations and multi-coloured lights emerge. The city’s main streets become genuine living “tableaux” depicting regional traditions which alongside with the concerts, folk groups and philharmonic bands performances, in addition to other music groups, delight both residents and the thousands of tourists who are visiting the island during this time of the year.
Prior to Christmas, are held the nine ceremonies of the “Childbirth Masses” an occasion that begins on December 16th, drawing many church goers who, at the end of the religious service, get together and socialise in the churchyards, singing popular Christmas carols and the sharing of food and drinks in a genuine festive atmosphere.
On December 23rd takes place the traditional “Night at the Market” an occasion where, the last delicacies necessary for the preparation of “Christmas Dinner” are bought. This venue also hosts a show of traditional Christmas carols.
Christmas festivities continue, culminating on December, 31st with a glamorous firework show, renowned in 2006 by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest firework display in the World. It is within the midst of this grand show that Madeira bids farewell to the old year and welcomes the New Year. These are excellent reasons for you to experience the “Festa” in Madeira.