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Welcoming the New Year – A Tale of Old Portuguese Traditions

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Welcoming the New Year – A Tale of Old Portuguese Traditions
Photo by Erad


Written by  Staff Writer
Monday, 31 July 2017 22:01

Like all nations, Portugal has its fair share of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s welcoming traditions, and if you happen to be in Lagos or even in the Algarve for New Year, you are sure to witness some of them. So, what can you expect to see, ear and experience?

As a part of the traditions followed on New Year’s Eve, the most widely accepted and observed tradition if the eating of twelve grapes.

As a part of this tradition, one has to eat twelve grapes within a minute of the arrival of New Year. One should get started as soon as the clock touches twelve. Each grape is considered to represent a month of the coming year, and while you are eating each one, you are required to make a wish, this will ensure that all your New Year wishes will be met, month by month, and that you will have a fruitful and rich next 12-months.

Raising a glass of champagne and toasting the arrival of New Year is another important tradition. Oh, and we must not forget the food. It is also typical to eat a plate of  “Caldo Verde” soup with “Broa” to warm you up during the cold winter night just after the passing of midnight. This will ensure that you have plenty of food; warmth and sustenance in the New Year.

But there are many other Portuguese traditions, which are also believed to bestow you with good luck in the coming year.

  • Money in your wallet or pocket, as it ensures wealth and prosperity,
  • Wearing the colour blue gives you harmony and good luck,
  • And putting your right foot out when entering a room ensures that you enter the New Year in a positive frame of mind, and
  • Banging of pots and pans at midnight will keep the evil spirits away from your life.

Now, there is no doubt that the Portuguese just love to have fun and be merry. They are social creatures that are at their best during this time of the year. You will find them gathering at various home parties, restaurants, clubs, participating in many street parties, or anywhere where there is a party going. What all these activities have in common is that there is plenty of singing, dancing, and cheering leading to the moment of the passing of the Old Year to the New Year.

Some people love to have interesting New Year celebrations. And in Lagos (or Tavira or any other coastal town), you could opt to join a boat ride on the open sea on New Year’s Eve. Just imagine the magical view of fireworks at the midnight from the sea, which is sure to make it an unforgettable and special New Year’s Eve experience.

All you need is to let your imagination run wild and look for other interesting choices on how to spend the birth of the New Year. You can also incorporate your own traditions with the Portuguese ones. But one thing is sure, as the clock ticks midnight, the crowds whistles, give loud cheers and many, many toasts are exchanged, there are hugs and there are kisses, and if you happen to be in close proximity to anyone, you will surely be kissed and hugged, even if they are strangers to you. And if you are lucky you may even be offered a glass of champagne given to you by a total stranger, so that you feel that you are all as one even if just for a brief moment.

Wherever you are, you for sure will not be alone.

The Portuguese believe that at this time, all souls gets together to share and welcome the New Year as one. So, you will ear and see loads of noise and fire; fireworks, music, or even just firecrackers. In some areas you will have open fires (fogueiras) in the streets. As discussed before, it is believed that noise and fire will chase away all the old and bad things, all the evil, and that in turn all that is good will be with you as you break into the New Year. This means that the more noise you have, or make around you, the sure you are that you will enter the New Year with positivity, peace and happiness!

And finally once you are in the New Year, on the first day of January you can experience and even join the singing of the “Janeiras” a typical singing of traditional folk songs, done in groups of adults, teenagers and children, in processions through the streets and going door to door.

If you are sung to, you are expected to reward them with sweets, some coins or some other cute treats.

Finally, if you really want to learn and experience the Portuguese culture hit the streets just before midnight, and embrace the fun, and if you are really lucky you can embrace anyone who happens to be close by you at the choke of midnight! And once the New Year is upon you, you can carry partying, and being merry by joining in singing the “Janeiras” with any group that crosses your path during the course of the 1st day of January.

Just go out there and have fun and wherever you are, and start the New Year in a spirit of joy and love. (maybe a little bit tipsy too :-)






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