Before Christmas this year, I let our son “buy” one of the gifts I’d gotten for my wife, because he didn’t have the slightest idea what to get her (nor any inclination to go out shopping, not that I can blame him for that). This left me a gift short just before the holiday, so I headed out of the house at around six in the evening on Christmas Eve to pick up one last thing.
I’m an American. We think Christmas Eve is a an extra-long shopping day, not an actual holiday. It’s the day many people get most, if not all, of their shopping done. (Those who finish everything by Thanksgiving are mutants and will not be considered here.)
So I expected something like this:
You can tell by this admission that I’ve never ventured out on Christmas Eve in Portugal before.
I should have known better, though. I’ve lived here long enough to know that the Portuguese see Christmas Eve as a holiday in its own right. They even give the day its own unique name — Consoada — which should be a clue. Many do the big family dinner and gift-opening event that night, while Christmas Day is spent relaxing, eating leftovers, and playing with gifts.
So when I arrived in downtown Loulé, it looked something like this:
Needless to say, my shopping excursion was a total failure. I called my wife as I walked home through the deserted streets and said, “So I went out to get a last gift for you, but apparently the Portuguese spend Christmas Eve with their families like civilized people.”
My wife, whose family has always celebrated on Consoada, had a good laugh and told me to come home. And so, like many of the Portuguese, we celebrated on Christmas Eve…one gift short but with love to spare.