Our First Christmas in Portugal
I'm not one who gets excited about the holidays, but perhaps this year would be different...
Today marks 4 months and 1 day since we arrived in Portugal. Sometimes we feel like we’ve lived here for years, and other times, we feel as if it’s only been a handful of days. So far, we have not regretted our decision and we’re looking forward to exploring more of this country in 2022 (that is, if Covid doesn’t continue to get in the way).
Paul and I have spent decades of holidays together - sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone. I’ve never been one for the big holiday fanfare and admittedly, I don’t usually have a lot of that ‘Christmas spirit’ that others I know seem to thrive on. I don’t know where they get it! For example, I know people back in the U.S. who must get their Christmas tree decorated and up before Thanksgiving! And what about those tabletop ‘Christmas Village’ displays - you know - the ones with quaint snow-covered homes in an old-fashioned village with a train that circles around it. And gift shopping must be done before December 1st. And (heaven forbid!) if those gifts (most of which will probably be returned) aren’t wrapped and under that tree before the first week in December! I could never figure that out. Why? What’s the rush? And the tension and expense people go through to enjoy (?) Christmas - well, it just has never resonated with me. Plus, you do have to take all that stuff down and store it away after the season is over. Don’t get me wrong, if you love this, great. I guess I just don’t have the patience.
For me (just my opinion here), Christmas, is about reflecting on the good things you have in life – health (if you’re really lucky), love, family, friendships - those are the real gifts I cherish. The one Christmas gift I’m thankful for this year is having the ability to share my first Christmas in Portugal with Paul. We dreamed about this for a long time, but never thought it would actually happen - and then voila! A new chapter in our lives begins in a new country!
I thought that this might be a good time for positive changes to my ‘bah humbug’ outlook on Christmas. So, off we went to seek out some of that holiday cheer (without the hype and the tabletop Christmas Village display) for ourselves.
Since we don’t exchange Christmas gifts with one another - we buy what we need when we need it - and I don’t need another piece of jewelry or a sweater - we thought a nice gift to ourselves (and a good way to get some of that holiday spirit we seem to lack), would be a Christmas getaway to Lisbon and Porto. Lisbon is only 30 minutes away from where we currently live, but we don’t get there much in the evenings, so we stayed for a couple of nights in a hotel close to many of the Christmas light displays. Then, on December 23rd, we took the high-speed train to Porto (about 3 hours north) and spent 3 nights in a hotel overlooking the Douro River. There will be upcoming posts about Porto because we liked it enough to want to plan a longer trip in 2022 to explore. This post contains mostly pictures of the holiday lights and sights in both Lisbon and Porto.
I wondered what Christmas in Portugal might really look like. Since there’s no Thanksgiving holiday here, would homes and businesses be decorated earlier or later? It turns out, from what we observed, that Christmas isn’t nearly as rushed here as in the States. Decorations are in full swing in the cities by the first week of December. There are Christmas Villages, but they are actual “villages” set up on plazas with local artisans, food vendors, music, and Santa.
There are dancers performing, musicians playing, Christmas pastries lined up in the windows of pasteralias, people sitting and chatting along the sidewalks in little cafes, and there’s not that sense of urgency we saw in the States. In other words, people in Portugal seem to take the time to enjoy each other and the Christmas season.
Did we catch some of that holiday spirit? I’ll probably have to work on it for awhile, but yes, I really do think so! Sometimes a change of scenery, an appreciation for the simple things, meeting new people, a change in outlook (or a new country) can make a big difference!
Until next time…
Obrigada (And Happy New Year!)