On Madeira, Christmas is experienced with great fervour. The preparations begin early. First, the crop shoots are sowed, and the liqueurs are made in time for the ‘childbirth masses’ !! Meanwhile, Funchal (the island’s capital) takes on a new shine with its traditional Christmas lights. In the kitchens, various flavours of cornbread and the famous “bolo de mel” honey cake are being made !!
Crop shoots (“searas”)
No traditional Madeira nativity scene is complete without them !! Grains of wheat, corn, broad beans, peas and lupin beans . Crop shoots are part of the greenery used as Christmas decorations. According to this ancient tradition, seeds should be planted to germinate 10 days before Christmas day (after being left to soak for two or three days) to get the blessing of the baby Jesus to make the island’s harvests bountiful.
Christmas in Madeira is traditionally celebrated with home-made liqueurs !! Every year, with the approach of festivities, the locals begin to prepare the liqueurs for whenever there’s a toast at a family get-together or traditional mass. The most popular liqueurs are Tangerine, Passion Fruit, Aniseed, Banana, Morello Cherry and ‘Tintantum’..
Honey cake (“bolo de mel”) is an essential item at the tables of Madeira’s families at Christmas. Although it is somewhat difficult to make, the result is fantastic — and it lasts a whole year (if there’s any left, of course) !