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New Year’s Eve in Portugal

New Year’s is obviously a special occasion in countries all around the world. But what specific significance does it hold in Portugal? How is New Year’s Eve typically celebrated? In this article, we tell you all about the Portuguese traditions on both December 31st and January 1st and give you recommendations on where to go to celebrate. Come find out!

Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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How is New Year’s Eve celebrated in Portugal?

December 31st is a bit like December 24th, in the way that most shops close early (or don’t open), so that people can go have dinner and celebrate New Year’s Eve – called ‘Passagem de Ano’ or ‘Reveillon’ in Portugal. It is tradition to have dinner with family, but, after, celebrations can go in many ways.

Some people choose to stay in with family, others go to a friend’s house, others partying and some simply go out on the streets to watch the fireworks and the live music, which is usually provided by the different municipalities. There’s also the popular option of going to a NYE event at a restaurant or venue, which includes dinner and drinks and can easily be the most expensive. At the end of the day, it’s down to personal choice!

What are the New Year’s traditions in Portugal?

As a very historical and culturally rich country, Portugal has a lot of traditions dating back years and New Year’s is no exception. Here are some:

1. Wearing blue underwear

It is believed that wearing blue underwear on NYE brings good luck and harmony in the new year. In some families, it is common to offer these garments as Christmas presents! A more extensive tradition in this field is wearing new pieces of clothing in general. There is also the superstition that putting fresh sheets on your bed brings love and good luck!

2. Eating 12 raisins

In Portugal, people eat 12 raisins right before the clock hits midnight – one per second. As you eat them, you make wishes for the new year. This is perhaps the most popular tradition – as a lot of people only buy raisins with the purpose of eating them on NYE. The tradition started in Spain at the end of the 19th century, when people began to gather and eat raisins instead of grapes in protest against a tax imposed by the municipality on those who wanted to celebrate Kings’ Day (Dia de Reis) early. The tradition eventually made its way to Portugal as well.

new year's eve in portugal
The popular tradition "First Swim of the Year"
3. Toasting with champagne

The champagne is meant to make eating the raisins easier. It is believed that these champagne toasts bring vitality and health in the new year. In order to reinforce the good energy, you should also keep the cork from the bottle and only throw it away the following year.

4. Getting into the new year on the right foot (literally)

Right before midnight, you should go on top of a chair or high platform in order to physically step into the new year with your right foot when the clock strikes 12:00am!

5. Making noise with pots and pans

This is for those spending NYE at home. When the clock hits midnight, you should hit your pots and pans together in order to make as much noise as possible. This tradition supposedly scares away all the bad spirits from the previous year.

6. Kissing someone

The “New Year’s Eve kiss” is a popular tradition worldwide and Portugal is no exception! The exact origins of this tradition aren’t known but it is believed to be linked to a Roman festival that took place at a time very close to New Year’s Eve, where everyone kissed as an act of celebration.

7. “The First Swim of the Year”

On New Year’s Day, dozens of Portuguese people take to Carcavelos beach, in Cascais, and Vila do Conde, near Porto in order to have their first swim of the year. It is believed that this experience hardens the bones and purifies the spirit!

What about New Year’s Day?

New Year’s Day is one of the major public holidays in Portugal, meaning that most establishments – including grocery stores – are closed and the majority of people don’t have work. So the day usually goes one of two ways: delicious lunch and time with family, or hangover watching movies and sleeping all day. Either way, it is a day for resting and writing down your new year resolutions. We hope moving to Portugal is one of yours!

Where should I celebrate New Year’s Eve in Portugal?

Although NYE is a huge event worldwide and nationwide, there are some spots in Portugal that are particularly known for their celebrations.

Lisbon

Being the capital, Lisbon is one of the main Portuguese destinations on NYE. Moreover, it is one of the most popular in Europe – placing 15th on the loveholidays ranking of cities to visit during this time. Every year, the fireworks at Terreiro do Paço are the main attraction! But the celebrations start a few days before. Starting on the 29th, there will be many free concerts on the famous Praça do Comércio, which will last until January 1st at 2am.

There are also many, many private parties all over the city, which you can check here. Another simple, but popular, option is to simply stay celebrating on the street until daylight, around the nightlife neighbourhoods of Lisbon, like Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré.

Porto

As the second biggest Portuguese city, Porto is also a great destination to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Much like Lisbon, there are many, many private parties in different nightclubs and bars that you can attend for a price. As for the free activities, the fireworks and concerts on Avenida dos Aliados are sure to attract a lot of people!

new year's eve in portugal
New Year's Eve fireworks in Funchal, Madeira. © Público
Madeira

Funchal, Madeira’s capital, is known worldwide for its New Year’s fireworks – which many people travel to see. Due to this fame, there are several options when it comes to restaurants, bars, venues, cruises and private parties.

Algarve

The Algarve is famous and much sought after by tourists during the summer, but it is also rather popular during this time. All the beaches in the region organize fireworks displays and concerts, with Albufeira being one of the most popular. Faro and Portimão are also famous for their celebrations.

Braga

In Braga, New Year’s Eve celebrations are concentrated in Praça da República – the heart of the city. Like many Portuguese cities, Braga celebrates New Year’s Eve with firework displays. Sites such as Bom Jesus do Monte or the Sé Cathedral offer spectacular views of the fireworks, due to their higher location.

No matter where you are, Pearls of Portugal wishes you the best of times. Be responsible and have fun!

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