Christmas Fires

Christmas Fires

Big piles of firewood, trunks and roots, some tires (but this you have not read, because it is not allowed anymore) and, in some places, a small Christmas tree to crown this bonfire that is even able to warm hearts.

Thus, in practically all villages and towns of our Beira a giant bonfire set to be lit on Christmas Eve, after the Midnight Mass, to keep baby Jesus warm.

Madeiros, the Christmas Fires in Portuguese, are a living tradition here in the region, which brings together the good people of Beira around them while glasses of wine and jeropiga are poured, roasted chouriça is served, and yummy filhós are shared.

Back in the old days-this is how every good story begins- this task was entrusted to young men, those about to join the army, but nowadays youngsters do no longer join the army, and ladies have a saying, so it turned into a more communal task, engaging the population in its construction.

Tradition dictated, and it still does, that the bonfire should be high and last a few days, preferably until the 6th of January; it should stand still and not fall with the first blow. There was also some rules to be followed concerning the origin of the firewood, if this was offered, the bunch was received with festivities and wine, if on the other hand it was stolen, it would be deposited in the middle of the square during the night, without festivities or wine.

From the rivalry between villages it occurred that sometimes the firewood was stolen from one another, as having the greatest and the most beautiful was a reason for pride that encouraged the groups.

Today, Penamacor proudly hosts the largest Madeiro in Portugal, and in December it becomes  Penamacor Vila Madeiro, which begins with the procession of tractors that carry several tons of wood to build this huge pile that reaches most of the times more than 10 meters high.

Contrary to the rest of Madeiros, Penamacor lits the bonfire on the 23rd and this is how we manage to go every year to at least two Madeiros, to the one in Penamacor and the one in our village. Which one will you visit this year?

Photos : Câmara Municipal de Penamacor

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