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The Cub

The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

Portuguese Christmas – How the Holidays should be Celebrated

Portuguese Christmas - How the Holidays should be Celebrated

It is a family tradition of mine to all gather together and watch Frosty the Snowman at my avo’s house a couple of nights before Christmas. My avo walked into the living room one time with a puzzled look on her face, questioning “What are those children doing with that snowman!?” All the older grandchildren and cousins rolled their eyes, as the little ones released bursts of giggles. My oldest cousin replied, “Avo, they’re all chilling…”

She walked forward staring at us with a strange-confused look, “Chilling? está frio? (It’s cold?).” I quickly stepped in with a flat tone, “No avo, they’re all friends and are playing together.” She snapped back defensively, “Well why don’t they put a casaco (coat) on, or go inside? It’s cold out there,” in her little old Portuguese heavy accent. She walks away, shaking her head, stunned that we could ever watch or say such a thing.

The typical Portuguese family may be old fashioned and stubborn in their ways, but still open to share in the traditions that come along in an American society. Well… a Portuguese mom might come understand the American traditions, but an avo never will.

But luckily, once Christmas Eve arrives, there’s not much American about it, as it’s celebrated like we are back in Portugal, with the smell of Bacalhau (salty cod fish) teasing every one, young or old, as they wait for the festive dinner, or as the elders gather in front of the living room to tell the story of the wise three kings and the birth of baby Jesus on repeat all night long. The traditions are endless, and the memories are forever.

We all gather Christmas Eve at my aunt’s at 6 o’clockon the dot. In a Portuguese family, time is everything. If it’s 6:01, get ready to be taunted with a long lecture from all the old tias (aunts) and avos, “How could you be late!? Where were you!? We have been waiting forever!! The food is done!” (Remind you, they haven’t even started cooking yet.) All you can do is grab your apron, have a quick laugh, and kiss everyone hello one by one down the line.

7:45: time to sit down and have an official Christmas Eve dinner with no meat, as every since I was little nobody could explain to me why, accept that it’s a life long tradition. The never ending table sits the young and care free on one end, and the elderly and concentrated on the other.

One by one the dishes clutter the table starting with the fresh pop-secos (rolls) and pao de milho (cornbread) brought from Tia’s bakery, followed by the panelas (pans) of three fresh kinds of soup, to the numerous entrees including polvo (octopus) freshly battered and fried as tentacles grasp on to every savoring spice and it codes to a golden brown.

The women begin to prepare for this meal, Bacalhau (dried cod dish), about a week a head of time allowing the fish to coat in a thick layer of salt in a dry dark room before baking it to a juicy crisp as the dominant entree when being occupied by a perfect coating of olive oil and vinegar and topped with roasted green pepper.

Just when you think you’ve had as much as your stomach can handle, in a reverse fashion, they bring out the desserts as a manipulating distraction to keep you at the table while the women shuffle into the kitchen to make their world famous spicy shrimp, lobster tail, clams, and scallops sautéed in a family secret sauce that will don the table around 10 p.m.

Before you know it, it’s midnight, the most significant hour for the crianças (children) and the avos.

If the children had it their way, their tradition and favorite part of the night would be the first thing on everyone’s list, as at 11:59 on the dot all the cousins whether they’re three or 23, sprint up the stairs and form a military line as they count down the last seconds until it is truly Christmas day. When that clock strikesmidnight, they all scavenge through the room filled with red and green holiday paper searching for that little tag on that mystery box in the sea presents that reveal their name.

But as already established, the avos always get there way.

Two simple words… midnightmass. The avos have been in the church since11:30 waiting for mass to begin. Once the children are done opening their presents they all pack into cars to travel to church to accompany their waiting and impatient avo.

It may seem like any other typical mass, but the room is filled with a special atmosphere. The church choir sings joyful songs about the birth of Jesus Christ, and the importance of love and forgiveness. Families take up their own pews, and one by one they rise to kiss the feet of baby Jesus, in the front of the church.

By the time the hour mass is over, it’s well into Christmas Day. I look around and see my family surrounded by one another kissing and hugging good-bye in the house of God. Smiles are shown, and laughter is shared, and we all truly come to terms with peace and love with one another on that early Christmas morning. As I walk away, I begin to whisper in my head, only 364 more days, until another amazing Christmas Eve with my Portuguese family.


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About the Contributor
Jordan Leal
Jordan Leal, Editor-in-Chief
Jordan Leal is the new sheriff in town as she starts her senior year as Editor and Chief of the Cub, and is leaving with a bang when she graduates in June. She’s shy until you get to know her. You’ll fall hard for her beautiful smile, which will distract you from her high-pitched voice. Her hazel eyes squint when she’s happy, and she may or may not roar an uncommon laugh. Jordan is probably one of the most organized people you will ever meet. She’s a rationalist over a romantic any day, but she still has a few romantic bones in her body. She could blab on for hours about One Tree Hill, and her obsession shines every Tuesday when there’s a new episode. Phobias? You bet, what girl doesn’t? Jordan will not eat spaghetti; she’s deathly afraid she is going to choke on it. Best writer ever? Of course, so do not miss out on Jordan’s amazing writing or you will be sorry!

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