A dinner set for the dead may sound more like something from Halloween, but this is Christmas in Portugal.
In heavily Catholic parts of the world (such as Portugal), Christmas is much more solemn than other places in the world where Pagan roots still run deep. Aside from setting up the nativity scene and attending church services, many families in Portugal also have a consoda.
In the early hours of Christmas morning, families partake in a huge feast, making sure to leave additional places for alminhas a penar or the souls of the dead. The consoda is reminiscent of the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos in November with its respect and acknowledgment of ancestors and family members that are no longer with us. It is believed that if families offer gifts to their deceased family members, the following year will be good to them.
Another aspect of consoda is leaving breadcrumbs in the hearth. This goes back to the ancient tradition of leaving seeds with the dead in the hopes of having a bountiful harvest.
So if you’re celebrating Christmas without all of your family and loved ones with you, perhaps you can incorporate the customs of consoda into your celebration (I know I will).
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