You want a sneak preview of what you can expect to see? Then check the following video of how the city of Funchal greeted the birth of the new year. Video made by Hugo Reis and Victor Freitas. Special thanks to Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts for publishing this video. Continue reading “Madeira New Year Fireworks Live Stream”
The month of December is a very busy one … especially for the locals who are preparing for the holidays festivities and traditions. One of these traditions is the Presépio …. which is set up from 8th of December. Christmas Nativity with all the usual figurines. You will find it in in most homes here on Madeira and also in all the hotels and restaurants.
A hint: take a minute … contemplate the Presépio and praise to the owner the work they have done. If you do this before ordering dinner … you might even get a discount.
Apart from the Presépio, Madeira also has other Christmas customs … such as Lapinha. Lapinha is a display with the figure of baby Jesus on top of what looks like a miniature mountain. In the middle they usually display fruits and the bottom there are small pots of freshly sprouted wheat. The believe is that the seeds are potted between 1st and 8th of December …. and if the wheat is later planted and grows well, a good harvest is assured. Most Lapinha’s are extended with all kind of toys, miniature village, wooden trunks, stones and plastic animals. Some more elaborate constructions boast even mountains made of hardened, dark paper, and water in form of ponds or even a stream. Sapatinhos (Ladies Shoes orchids) and other flowers are also used.
Other tradition is that on the nine days before 24th of December, devoted Madeirans go to mass very early in the morning …. to pray for Mary’s nine months of pregnancy, … and each service is finished with a small get-together in front of the church …. sometimes chanting songs and enjoying home-made liquor.
But that is not all ….
The traditional-conscious Madeiran, on December 31st before the réveillon, carries something borrowed, some coins … and 12 raisins in hand. Equipped with these …. at the stroke of midnight … he/she can make 12 wishes … that might be granted until next December.
Missa do parto (Childbirth Mass) is one of the religious mass celebrations that takes place in most churches on the Madeira Island. It is a Christmas tradition that starts nine days (novena) before Christmas. Each day of those nine days represents a month of the pregnancy of the Virgin Mary, and it finishes with the midnight mass (Missa do Galo) on 24th December.
The services have to take place before daybreak in recognition that the baby Jesus was born at night. In many locations the neighbors and church visitors all unite celebrating with instruments and singing traditional songs. Madeirans wake up very early in the morning to attend the Missa de Galo as an expression of devotion to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is believed that if an individual completes the nine consecutive days, the act would merit a wish made by the devotee being granted.
Afterwards the Missa do Galo (Rooster’s Mass) takes place around 12:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
It is said that the mass owes its name to the idea that a rooster would have been among the first to witness the birth of Jesus, and thus be the one to announce it.
I will never forget my first Christmas on Madeira. On that evening I have met a beautiful and very elegant lady. She had an exquisite gala dress. An evening dress that was embroidered with millions of colored pearls that all lit-up in the dark. The lady her name was … Funchal.
Funchal starts wearing her gown at beginning of the month December. When the evening makes its entrance then the lady’s dress starts to shine … so intense … that both the moon and stars are just blushing of shame.
It is a spectacular view to watch at night. You can put away your tourist-map of Funchal, and just follow the lights …. because the city itself offers you a road map through the strings of lights. The streets together with the buildings, churches and bridges, … they all sparkle like jewels on a black velvet cloth.
In the Netherlands (and other European countries) most of the people enjoy their Christmas days at home, in front of the fireplace, … cozy and warm, with their hot drinks, and some Christmas music playing in the background.
Here on Madeira we also have that similar experience … except it takes place outside the door. When you wander through the magical streets of Funchal, you will notice that the whole city has turned into one big nativity scenery, … hearing the various songs and music that are announcing the arrival of Natal. The city becomes a giant amphitheater of lights during the days of December. Also other towns and villages around the island take same approach to enchant people with lights, colors and warmth.
And wait! … afterward there will be no time to recover from these Christmas day’s …. because the magic will continue. Feasts, parties and events are then taking place in hotels, restaurants, bars and even on the streets. Just wander through the lighted streets you will surely be swept into some festivity.
And then there is the New Year’s Eve …
A lot has been said about the Revellion – New Year’s Eve on Madeira … which even got an award in the Guinness World Record. But I will summarize it for you in just one word: … spectacular!
In the Netherlands (where I come from) for example … people spend millions of euros each year buying fireworks. A common household spends about 150 euros on firework …. and just to see it all that value in money explode in just a few minutes on their own backyard.
Here on Madeira fireworks are sold but only a few spend that kind of money. Maybe a few sparkling stars and rockets, but most people here spend their money on food, wine and new clothes instead. Because on New Years Eve you invite your family and friends to celebrate together the birth of the new year. Majority of the Madeiran population go to Funchal, finding a nice spot with a view over the city … and everybody waits for the stroke of midnight. At which another magical moment will start. The stars in the sky will then disappear for about 10-15 minutes. They will be replaced by million of lights and colors … as if the jewels of evening dress, that I mentioned before, decide to rocket all into the sky. The lady strips down to fire up the sky, sending all its jewels …. bursting into a myriad of colors. The churches and cruise ships eagerly will welcome this striptease show with bells and sirens … culminating in the spectacular firework display. People will be cheering, hugging each other, toasting on the arrival of the New Year and wishing everyone all the good things in life to one and another.
After this there are still a few days more to feast ….
All the December celebrations are finally brought to a close on Epiphany (6th of January). The lights are then extinguished and Funchal takes down her with lights embroidered evening dress … and put it away for the next party.
On the 20th February 2010, an appalling news story overwhelmed the world’s newswires. Madeira had suffered awful flooding. Funchal in particular was featured. Not only did fatalities take place in Madeira’s capital city, but logistics meant that television cameras and reporters were presently in place to witness the terrible scenes – for, the flooding had dramatically halted almost all public transport on the Island. So, the worldwide village observed on in horror as mudslides and a deluge of water tumbled down from the mountains surrounding the city.
Inevitably, there were fatalities. The body count soon reached beyond fifty. Some say that, given the suddenness of the events and the ferociousness of the flooding, the death toll was mercifully sparse. Thankfully, due to the whereabouts of the majority of tourist hotels, situated in Funchal’s periphery where the flooding was minimal, holidaymaker deaths were limited to just single figures. However, the long-term impression of widespread havoc left the world believing that Madeira Island could never reclaim its idyllic reputation.
As Funchal is Madeira’s main city it is the business-related center of the island. It is a breathing city, with all the normal hurrying and scurrying that you might suspect. It is also the resting-place where most tourist to the island abide during their stay. And, Funchal manages to preserve many spots of peace and tranquility for the visitor to experience. Today, the resurgent city has restored much of the damage of February 2010 and again boasts of many sights to see and places to call on.
The seafront promenade in Funchal was notably ravaged by the happenings of February 2010. Not only did the despoiling force of the water cause devastation, but the deluge of mud and rocks that were swept along by the flowing water caused substantial damage. Today, this much loved promenade has been rebuilt and improved. Indeed, throughout its history, this water front tract has undergone a succession of improvements and additions. The rebuilding work subsequent to the flooding has been just another episode in its on-going development. Once again, tourists can take a slow saunter and take joy in the cooling breeze of the Atlantic as they soak up the sun.
Returning visitors will swiftly realize that the seafront now extends twenty meters or so further out into the Atlantic Ocean. This is an outcome of action of the former pebble shore being used as a store for the tonnes or rock and debris that was cleared from the inner streets of Funchal. However, the waterfront still retains its previous charm.
So, if you’re feeling lazy and just want to let an hour or two glide smoothly by, you could savor a tranquil lazy walk along the seafront walkway.
Beginning at the westerly end of the promenade is the harbour where the opulent cruise liners offload their consignment of passengers. There has been some major redevelopment work undertaken here, in particular the helicopter landing pad has been re-sited, but the port is as bustling as ever.
Soon, you come to the quay with its mass of yachts of all sizes and types. If you venture along the quayside, you will notice that many visiting captains have left their label on the wall in the form of painted murals. This is a pleasing established practice that is not intended as graffiti. Indeed, it is obviously tolerated by the port officialdom. Take time to look at the mixture of visual mementos. The chances are you will recognize at least one from your country.
If all this walking gives you an desire for food, there is no shortage of eateries along the way. Be it just a cool beverage, right up to a luxurious three-course luncheon, you will easily find something to your taste. Naturally, being a tiny island in the mid-Atlantic, seafood is always pronounced on the menu.
Carrying on, you will soon reach the Vagrant, a tall-masted boat once owned by the Beatles. Children of the Sixties will surely love the nostalgia – and, for them, eating here is practically compulsory. For those of a younger age, get someone to make clear to you just why the Beatles are so important. This used to be a seafront restaurant, but due to the deposited rubble, it now stands some 20 meters from the seafront. Nevertheless, take time to hang out here and savor the mixture of Beatles’ songs that will unfailingly complete your meal.
Continuing eastward, you pass the shopping center, a little inset from the promenade, where the greatest number of fatalities occurred in the February floods. This locale has been one of the slowest to be reconstructed, but refurbishment work is on-going. A little further on is Funchal Old Town, known as the Zona Velha by the locals. You will find the Old Town nostalgically attractive and compact. A supreme venue to enjoy a quality meal on a hot summer’s evening.
The Fortaleza de Sao Tiago is situated on the other side the restaurants in the Zona Velha district. This is a yellow-painted fort that previously safeguarded Funchal from assault by pirates. Having seen off mother nature’s attack from the mountainside rising behind it, today it still houses an exhibition of contemporary art and boasts an up-market restaurant.
One could do no worse than to show solidarity with the local Madeiran population. Booking a holiday in Funchal will accomplish just that. And, rest assured, the waterfront promenade will hold something of entertain for almost everybody.
Jimmy Jay James B.Sc (Hons) is a member of the staff of the independent Madeira travel guide. He lives in the United Kingdom and has had many articles published in the trade press. He visits Madeira frequently and has made many friends there.
The city of Funchal transforms itself into a life-size nativity scene. It is Christmas Time on Madeira Island! The streets are decorated with millions of lights …. in all sizes and colors. They evoke images of the seasonal symbolism.
The city has put on her evening gala dress with lights embroidery and beautiful colors for the December festivities.