Christmas and New Year Festivities in Madeira

Running from the 8th of December until the 6th of January 2013, Madeira's festive season includes Christmas concerts, a traditional market and a huge firework display to greet the New Year.
It's the switching on of the decorative lights in the streets of Funchal's city centre earlier in the month that officially marks the beginning of the Christmas and New Year festivities.
The island's seasonal celebrations consist of an extensive programme of cultural, religious and artistic events that take place throughout the entire month of December, culminating with the celebration of Twelfth Night.
At this time of the year, Funchal transforms itself into a crib of real life proportions, when the streets become decorated with colourful flowers and lights of all sizes, forming shapes and figures reflective of the season.
In the streets and squares, there's always a happy crowd of people enjoying the music of the concerts, which comprise performances by Madeira's philharmonic bands and folklore groups.
In Madeira, the festivities begin at the beginning of December with the setting up of the lapinha (crib) and the cooking of various delicacies and pastries, namely the famous honey cake, corn bread, home-made liqueurs and the preparation of pork in wine and garlic, one of the island's most famous dishes.
Another seasonal tradition is the celebration of the 9 Childbirth Masses which take place at dawn to announce the birth of the Boy Jesus, accompanied by hymns sung by locals, normally in churchyards, filled with Christmas decorations and where traditional drink and food typical of the season is offered to those present.
On the 23rd of December, the traditional night market celebration is held, where the Madeireans do their last-minute Christmas shopping and where one can savour many of the traditional snacks and drinks of the season.
After the Christmas commemorations the high spirits continue in anticipation of the New Year Festivities, culminating with a great fireworks display, one of the most impressive of its kind in the world.