The Janeiras are a holiday time tradition in Portugal that consist of a group of people strolling the streets of a town signing in the new year. Because they happen in early January the songs are called Janeiras – after Janus, ancient god of the entryway to heaven – and it is believed that the tradition came from Roman times to ward off evil sprits at the beginning of the year - a time of mysticism that the Roman held sacred. To the modern eye it is not unlike Christmas carolling, with a group of friends or neighbors, sometime with instruments, singing from house to house.
Once the song is done the singers are rewarded with chestnuts, nuts, apples, and cured sausages. But these days, chocolates are often offered too. The song will vary from town to town, but one version is:
Let us sing the janeiras
For the field in which we travel
The wind comes and luck changes
And snow falls in the hills,
And only memories remain of they old trails.
In the Algarve charolas (spontaneously formed groups that join together to sing songs of both a religious and a secular nature) are formed and the Janeiras are sung. Between 25 December and 6 January, tradition has it that people should go out into the street to sing the Janeiras, reviewing the most important events of the year, with a spirit of happiness and great humor. Groups of local inhabitants challenge householders to listen to their verses, in exchange for which they receive the traditional alms: either one of the seasonal sweet fritters or a glass of brandy. Another of the Algarve’s Christmas traditions is to be found in the groups of charola singers, who sing their songs to God, with rhyming verses The tradition of welcoming in the New Year with seasonal singing (New years Carols) is alive and well in the Municipality of Silves on January 5th at 9 p.m., with a public festival.
Bolo Rei (King Cake) is a particular favorite of the Portuguese during Christmas and is traditionally eaten on January 6, during Epiphany. It is a round cake glazed with fruits, nuts and sugar.
Whoever gets this bean has to buy the "Bolo Rei" in the coming year. In addition to this, the are holiday desserts that differ from region to region.