I am talking of course of the Presépio Gigante in Vila Real de Santo António. Like most presépios in Portugal it includes scenes of daily life in Portugal as well as the nativity scene itself. So you will spot farmers, millers, a laundress, a potter, market stall-holders, hunters, beekeepers, fishermen and even a salt works.
The presépio in Portugal is very traditional, with most homes having their own version. The very first crib is believed to have been created in Italy in the mid 13th century , and over the following centuries the concept spread across Europe.
What makes Presépio Gigante in Vila Real de Santo António so special, apart from its size, is that you begin your journey like Mary in Nazareth before making your way through the countryside and along the coast to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph are moved daily, and this year we found them shortly after the river scene leaving a village. Last year we found them making their way around the base of the mountain. If you are in the Algarve over Christmas and/or New Year then do visit as it is quite extraordinary, for more details on cost and location click here. And if you are unfortunate enough not to be in the Algarve over the festive period please do click on at least one photo gallery to enjoy a close-up of what you are missing!
One of the additions this year was the Star of Bethlehem shining bright above the cave. Other changes included more vultures and eagles, and the census queue isn’t as long as it was this year. However that could be because we visited a day earlier this year. I’ also pretty sure the harbour has grown, and certainly can’t recall the salt pans from last year.
After passing the cave, you slowly leave daily life in the Algarve behind and head east to the home of the Magi. The scenery changes quite dramatically, and I noticed that one of the camels had come to an untimely end this year too!
It is traditional here in Portugal and in England for the baby Jesus to be added after Midnight Mass, with the Portuguese then distributing gifts to each other after Jesus has been added to the scene. I’m not sure we will be doing that ourselves this year as I have gone very English and decorated a tree in our apartment and so our presents will be going under that rather than around a crib. I will though over the next few days share more photographs and posts on presépios as we cannot resist them when we see the sign.