Celebrating Christmas in many towns of northern Portugal means a return to ancient pagan festivals.
In the region of Mogadouro, in Bragança, they hold the ‘Festa do Velho’ (Festival of the Old Man) each year. On 24 December the people gather around a bonfire and two boys (the ‘Old man’ and the ‘Servant’) ask around village for logs for the ‘boy’s bonfire’. This tradition is still observed in the village of Vale do Porco.
In Trás-os-Montes it is usual at this time of year for the boys to organise races, dances and fights where the prize is a bagel shaped loaf of bread which is incorporated into a mass and procession in which it is divided up for everyone in a public square.
The festival of Saint Stephen, celebrated in Grijó de Parada, Parada, Serapicos, Agrochão, Babe, Rio d’Onor and Ousilhão, is more of a party bringing together the community of this mountainous region on 25 and 26 December. Find out more about this tradition here.
Singing ‘Janeiras’ (January songs) is another of the traditions kept alive in northern Portugal and that bring the holiday season to an end. On 6 January, it is usual for small groups of people to go from house to house wishing the occupants a happy new year, often in exchange for food (chestnuts, walnuts, apples, chorizo, black pudding, etc.).