Lisbon at Christmas time: students, beggers, New Year, the Bolo Rei Kings’ cake & traditions (who gets the bean?)
Already in October Lisbon is busy decorating the streets and the trees. Thousands of lovely colourful Christmas lights decorate the city, from Rossio and the Baixa/Chiado downton area to the Avenida Novas and beyond to Belém. It is said that, due to the financial crisis, the banks stopped sponsoring the Christmas decorations.
Rossio, November 23rd. A children’s choir singing Christmas carols (Janeiras).
Lisbon, November 22nd (picture: Getty).
Fireworks light up the sky during the lighting ceremony of Lisbon’s Christmas tree placed at Eduardo VII Park in downtown Lisbon. This giant 44 metre Christmas tree is decorated with more than 1.6 million lights (!)
Tradition: students (try to ) sing a Christmas Carol in the streets and ask for money..
A woman, also dressed in black, is asking for money too…..
…..and there’s a lot of poor people begging on the streets of Lisbon, not only at Christmas time….
On Christmas Eve , December 24, mosts restaurants are closed from lunchtime. Families gather around the Christmas tree. Many attend the Midnight Mass (Missa do Galo). After mass they gather around the table and have supper (Ceia de Natal).
At the night of December 31, thousands of people gather near the waterfront of the Tagus River at Praça do Comércio, to welcome the new year. In the best of Portuguese traditions, a shower of light and colour will flood Lisbon’s most famous square, with a fireworks display to the sound of the twelve gongs. From 22:00 there’s a stage with live concerts with famous Portuguese names like Sérgio Godinho, considered as one of the most influential popular musicians in Portugal. There will be plenty of entertainment at the bars. Also in Parque das Nações there is a fireworks show near the river. The festivities continue non-stop at Casino Lisboa (Alamedo dos Oceanos), with musical concerts at the Arena Lounge (above 18 free entry).
Until January 6 (Dia de Reis) the surrounding area will feature a variety of entertainment inlcuding musical shows for the whole family.
Feliz Natal! (Happy New Year!). A traditional dessert is Bolo Rei (Kings’ cake). This fruitcake is a typically New Years cake, but is becoming popular during Christmas Holidays. In the cake there are two surprises: one is a little present, the other one is not welcomed: a raw broad bean. Whoever gets this bean has to buy the Bolo Rei in the coming year.
Looking for an apartment at Christmas time in the historical center of Lisbon? You’re welcome!