Christmas Traditions on Madeira Island

The month of December can be a very busy one … especially for those who are preparing for the holidays festivities and Madeiran traditions. One of these traditions is the Presépio …. which is set up starting from 8th of December. It is the Christmas Nativity with all the usual figurines. You will find it in most homes here on Madeira and also in hotels and restaurants.

A hint: when you come across a Presépio … take a few minutes to contemplate the work and if you see the owner/maker of it, praise their work. If you do this before ordering dinner … you might 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 …. most of the times chanting songs, music and enjoying home-made liquor.

But that is not all ….
The traditional-conscious Madeiran, on New Year’s Eve, 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.

These are the traditions I could come up with. If I missed any, then please tell us which one in the comments. Obrigado!