1. Midnight Mass
Given that the majority of the population are Christian, families gather to either attend or watch the ‘Missa do Galo’ streamed live from the Vatican. Many, families with small children in particular, prefer to watch the mass conducted by the Pope.
2. Midnight Christmas Dinner
The biggest differentiation from western countries is that Christmas dinner is enjoyed at midnight or on return from mass, which is where it gathers its name ‘Missa do Galo’. A feast is prepared with roast meat (beef, pork etc), turkey, farofa (toasted manioc flour mixed with chicken or turkey giblets, salpicao (chicken and vegetable mayonnaise salad with crispy potato on top), rice with vegetables and salad. The left over from the midnight dinner is then served again on Christmas day – unsurprisingly it tastes even better second time around! Many restaurants are now offering the traditional midnight dinner or lunch serving the traditional dishes.
A must for Christmas Day is to enjoy some rabanadas. Similar to a French toast, the rabanada is fried bread covered in cinnamon or syrup of honey, port and cinnamon. As early on as November, rabanadas can be found in some cafés, so if spotted make sure to have try it.
4. Nativity Scene
In every household, in various sizes or forms a nativity scene known as ‘Presépio’ is found. With a variety to buy, from tiny crystal ornaments or hand carved wooden pieces, a ‘Presépio’ is the perfect gift to bring for a friend or family member. We received ours from my grandmother many years ago and it continues to be a treasured gift.