Christmas Decorations in Madeira
In Madeira, Christmas house decorations are a must! The nativity scenes, the "lapinha”, the pine tree, the floral arrangements and the table decorations for the family meals, are all well-rooted traditions in the Madeiran culture.
We met Graça Reis, who looks after some Christmas decorations at Madeira’s PortoBay hotels, to talk about some decorative Christmas traditions of Madeira.
Flowers are a must in any Madeiran Christmas decoration. They're placed on the tables, in the living room, and often throughout the house. The poinsettias or Christmas Stars (they’re called manhãs de páscoa in Madeira), the rush daffodil or jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla), the "sapatinhos” or venus slipper (an orchid’s species called Paphiopedilum), the holly and the alegra-campo (Semele androgyna) are the most typical flowers at this time.
Tangerines, tamarillo, pineapples, apples, pomegranates, oranges, guavas, apricots, nuts. .. there are several Madeiran fruits in the Christmas decorations !! They are used mainly in the decor of the tables, mixed with flowers and also in the nativity scenes or "lapinha".
Madeirans usually make two types of nativity scenes: the "Escadinha” and the "Lapinha”.
The Escadinha, as the Portuguese name implies, is made on a staircase with three steps lined with red velvet paper, where an image of the Baby Jesus stands on the top of the stairs, dressed in Madeira Embroidery. There is an arch on top, with paper flowers. On the steps of the stairs, there are images of shepherds, musicians, fruits such as tamarillos, tangerines, walnuts and chestnuts. This staircase (escadinha) is usually placed on a table, decorated with a Madeira Embroidered tablecloth, flanked by vases of flowers, such as the Paphiopedilum the jonquils and the typical "searinhas”. Usually, we place an oil lamp or candles on that table, as well.
The Lapinha recalls the volcanic origin of the island of Madeira and its cultural traditions. The decoration is intended to simulate a cave, made of rocks and wooden trunks. These are lined and armed with brown paper painted with brown ink and glitter. Lights and cotton are added to simulate ponds, rivers or waterfalls, although some larger ones have real water !! The figures of the nativity scene include Our Lady, St. Joseph, the Baby Jesus (In the straw crib), the cow, the donkey, the angels, the three wise men, the shepherds, the sheep, the musical bands, the houses, the churches. .. scenes of rural and cultural daily life are recreated. "Searinhas” and fruits are also placed around this "lapinha".
The Christmas tree is one of the most popular symbols of Christmas all over the world !! In the Madeiran houses, Christmas pines are also decorated with lights, balls, ribbons, colourful and bright figures, and of course. .. the star at the top of the tree must not be forgotten !! Graça Reis says that she once decorated a Christmas tree with a collection of old cups, another with Madeira Embroidery handkerchiefs . .. talk about creativity !!
According to Madeiran traditions, Madeira Embroidery is used on Christmas tables, both on December 24 and December 25. To revive this tradition, Funchal Town Hall, in partnership with Bordal, partner PortoBay Prestige, invited the PortoBay group to take part in an exhibition display entitled "Christmas Tables with Madeira Embroidery". The exhibition takes place at the Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias, starts on December 12 and ends on January 5. Admission is free.
Graça Reis guarantees that the decorative proposal of the exhibit this year is exciting. "It will be as if we had taken a table from the restaurant Il Gallo d'Oro and placed it on a corner of the forest," she explains. The beauty of the theatre hall, the refined Il Gallo d'Oro porcelain, the silver chandeliers, the exquisite tapestry, the Madeira embroidery, the "poinsettias", the natural mosses, the pomegranates, the pine trees and the lights will bring the refinement of the Michelin stars.
The goal is to convey peace, in an irresistible invitation to a two-course dinner. Pay a visit to the Baltazar Dias Municipal Theater and admire this beautiful PortoBay Christmas table.