Madeira: a brightly coloured Christmas


A visit to the Christmas market does not necessarily have to be accompanied by sub-zero temperatures and mulled wine. One of Europe’s most beautiful Christmas markets takes place in Madeira: in the Madeiran capital Funchal, you can buy traditional souvenirs or enjoy delicious delicacies at numerous stalls along Avenida Arriaga from 1 December to 7 January. Locals and guests dive into the festive atmosphere in what is usually mild weather. Instead of mulled wine, there is the traditional drink “Poncha” made from sugar cane liqueur, honey and lemon and instead of gingerbread and almond biscuits there are Bolo de Mel honey cake and Broas honey biscuits. 

Last minute presents: long night of the market on 23 December


The unique Christmas lights are ceremoniously switched on on 1 December. The whole city then shines in a colourful blaze of lights; and no tree is safe from the festive lighting. There is a Christmas tree in almost every square and many houses are decorated with the traditional cribs (Lapinhas). On 23 December, the famous long night of the market takes place in and around the market hall Mercados dos Lavradores, where the locals do their last-minute Christmas shopping and the whole city is on its feet. The stalls and surrounding bars are open all night, and the streets are bustling with activity until the early hours of the morning. 

Madeiran Christmas traditions and a Guinness world record

In general, the Christmas season on Portugal’s flower island Madeira is celebrated with great enthusiasm, with many local traditions playing an important role. On 16 December, the birth masses (Missas do Parto) begin, which end on Christmas Eve with the midnight mass (Missa do Galo – Rooster’s mass). A total of nine masses take place at dawn until 24 December. A visit to one of these masses is worthwhile, even for non-church-goers; “singing competitions” (despiques) are held and afterwards there is mata-bicho, a kind of early morning drink with liqueur, corn bread and cake. Incidentally, spending New Year’s Eve in Funchal is absolutely recommended. One of the world’s most spectacular firework displays takes place here, and in 2006 it even received an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the “world's largest pyrotechnic spectacle”. 

easyJet flies directly from Berlin-Tegel to Madeira-Funchal on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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