You have discovered a teaching treasure if you are reading this post. Twelve of my blogging buddies are coming together to bring you the ultimate classroom resource for the holidays. After you hop to each of our blogs, you will have a collection of freebies and a wealth of information that will allow you to take your students on a holiday journey around the world. This stop on the hop is all about Christmas in Portugal.
Modern day Portuguese Christmas celebrations are similar to celebrations in the UK and USA with a few notable differences linked to the religiously-rooted origins of the holiday. Here are a few of the most celebrated traditions:
Elaborate nativity scenes (called Presépios) are displayed in churches, households, shops and restaurants during the months of December and early January. Life sized scenes are not uncommon in larger towns where people travel from miles around to catch a glimpse of these elaborate works of art. Today, families continue the tradition of displaying a Presépio in their house along with the more modern decoration of a Christmas tree.
On the way out the door to midnight mass, parents secretly add the Baby Jesus to the Presépio so he is present when the excitedly children return home in hopes he will be there. His presence in the scene signals the delivery of gifts.
Pai Natal (known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus in the United States) is a more modern Portuguese Christmas icon. Children write letters to Pai Natal who lives in the cold north and has small animals that help him prepare for the delivery of gifts on his sleigh.
Traditionally, Portuguese families celebrated the delivery of gifts from the newborn Jesus. Modern day celebrations include the delivery of gifts by Pai Natal with help from the Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. Gifts are left under the Christmas tree or, in more traditional homes, left in shoes by the fireplace and opened after returning home from Christmas mass, called “Missa do Galo” or “Mass of the Rooster.
Favorite treats like candied fruits and sweet bread were given to each member of the family in the past. Today, these treats are typically delivered as gifts to neighbors and enjoyed as desserts during the holiday season. Modern day gift giving includes a variety of clothes, toys, and tools.
This traditional meal of Bacalhau (codfish), green vegetables, and boiled potatoes, is enjoyed before heading to church.
In the center of the beautifully decorated table is a traditional round Christmas cake called “Bolo Rei” (King Cake). A fava bean is hidden within the cake along with a small trinket. Whoever finds the bean is considered the king and must bake Bolo Rei to be given to the lucky person who finds the trinket.
I have yet to find a wealth of text written in English for elementary students about Christmas celebrations in Portugal. Therefore, I have included a nonfiction information page along with comprehension activities in my freebie Christmas In Portugal Activity Pack.
I also encourage you to add the book O Dia Louco Do Pai Natal (The Crazy Day of Father Christmas) by Dominique Curtiss to your classroom library. Due to the fact that none of my students fluently read Portuguese, I plan to introduce this in the same way I would a wordless picture book. Students will analyze the pictures carefully, make inferences about what is happening in the story, and complete the comprehension activities outlined below.
Nonfiction Comprehension Check
Christmas In Portugal. You can check their reading comprehension as they complete the 7 related comprehension questions. These questions require understanding of information within the text as well as application of information to answer questions beyond the text.
Compare and Contrast
After reading about Christmas in Portugal, your students can compare and contrast the holiday traditions of families in Portugal with their own family traditions using a bubble map.
After reading O Dia Louco Do Pai Natal by Dominique Curtiss, have your students make inferences about the characters, setting, and plot of the story. This picture book is writing in Portuguese so you will likely have to “read” it in the same way you would a wordless picture book. Each inference question also requires your young readers to collect illustration evidence to support their inference.
All the activities outlined above are included in my Christmas In Portugal Activity Pack. If you plan on incorporating these activities with others you find on this Holidays Around The World Blog Hop, take a moment to download the Portugal Passport page. The passport booklet that results from collecting all twelve passport pages is a perfect way to bring together the knowledge your students can collect during your Holidays Around The World unit of study.