2016 Advent Calendar: Day 123 minute read


Isaiah 9:6

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Day 12: Christmas Around The World – Portugal

  • Father Christmas (‘Pai Natal’) is believed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. The presents are left under the Christmas Tree or in shoes by the fireplace. However, some people say that the Baby Jesus brings the presents rather than Father Christmas.
  • Some families have two present opening times with children being allowed to open a few gifts after midnight mass and most of them in the morning. People that don’t go to a midnight service will put the gifts under the tree, and the family will open the gifts when they wake up.
  • Christmas Trees are common now, but not everyone had a tree until around the 1970s. However, the Nativity Scene (or Presépio) is the traditional Christmas decoration in Portugal, and most families will have a small one with just the holy family and the animals. Often the scenes have dozens of characters including animals, the wise men, shepherds, farmers, folk characters, etc. Children like to make the nativity scene, fetching moss to make the grass and arranging the figures.
  • After Christmas (and never before!) and going into the first weeks of January, groups of people will go from house to house with an image of the baby Jesus in his manger singing the ‘Janeiras’ songs (January songs). They are often accompanied with small instruments. They usually start with an opening song asking the owner of the house for food and drink! The owner of the house should invite them in to warm up and to help themselves of a spread of snacks sweet like dry figs with walnuts inside them or savoury like cheese and chorizo and some wine or brandy. If you do not open your door, or your food and drink doesn’t meet what is expected, the singers will sing songs mocking you (like saying you’ve got a big nose)! Usually after enjoying the food, the January singers will sing a song of thanks praising the generosity of the hosts, saying how nice you are.
  • In Portuguese Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Feliz Natal or Boas Festas’.

Magic Milk (Science Activity)

We know Santa loves his milk and of course he would have magic milk for Christmas!

You will need:

  • Washing up liquid
  • Whole Milk
  • Shallow Bowl or Ramekins
  • Food Colouring
  • Cotton Swabs/Ear sticks
  • Christmas shaped biscuit cutter (optional)

To set up for this magic milk science activity, I used a small plate and a biscuit cutter. You can use a shallow dish or bowl of any kind. Fill whatever you are going to use with whole milk.

Use your liquid food colouring to place drops of colour all around the surface of the milk.

Dip a cotton swab in the washing up liquid, then touch the tip of it to the milk and watch! It’s like a little explosion. Or you could say it’s Magic Christmas Milk!


What’s the science?

A larger surface area will allow for more magic to happen!

The science behind it: the chemistry of the washing up liquid and the fat of the milk is what makes the magic happen. While some of the washing up liquid’s properties dissolve in the water, the other properties search out the fat of the milk.

This “searching” is a whole bunch of molecules racing around to get those fat globs. You can see it with the colour movement. When there is no more movement, that means all the fat globs have been found and attached.

Mr Pitts currently teaches Computing to the whole school along with some other subjects during teacher's PPA time. He runs this website and makes sure it all works smoothly, most of the time!