Christmas Carols of Portugal – Part 1

In 1955, the musicologist Laura Boulton presented at the Estrela Church in Lisbon a programme of Portuguese folk music which she had recorded on tape during a tour of towns and villages in central and northern districts.   

I show below two of the traditional Christmas carols as sung in Tomar (my hometown) and Cinfães, which are riverside municipalities of similar size with histories dating back to Roman times and to the mediaeval Templar Knights.  They can be heard on Folkways album nº FW6845. The carols were sung (usually without any accompaniment other than a flute) during the 12 days of Christmas from the Eve to the Three Kings and the singers sometimes wore appropriate costumes.

  1. Tomar

Pinheiros do Natal

Luz de candura

São os dons presentes,

Recordam os ausentes,

Num hino d´amor e de ventura

Boa noite, meus Senhores,

Boas festas vimos dar;

Vimos pedir aos Senhores,

Boas festas vimos dar.

Vimos pedir aos Senhores,

Licena para cantar.

Vem-me agora ao pensamento

Una lembrança divina,

Convidar nossa Senhora

Para ser nossa madrinha

Para ser nossa madrinha.

Ela nos queira ajudar

Mais o Santo São José,

Que nos queira acompanhar.

Debaixo de um sol divino

Esta um tanque de agua fria

Onde se batiza o Deus

Filho da Virgem Maria –

Filho da Virgem Maria –

Nossa Mao do coração

Venha dar a esmola ao Rei,

Venha com toda a atenção

Não se venha arrepender

Nas suas aflições –

Só Deus lhe pode valer

  1. Cinfães

Vimos dar as Boas Festas

A estes nobres Senhores

Que já nasceu o Menino

Em Belém entre os pastores.

Nós andamos por aqui

O que queremos é dinheiro

Venha o vinho do tonel

Venha a carne do fumeiro

Venha o vinho especial

Nós vamos todos contentes

Fazer borga em geral.

Entrai pastorinhos

Por esse portal sagrado.

Vim de ver o Deus Menino

Numas palhinhas deitadas.

Nós bem vimos Nos Senhora

Nos alpendres de Belém,

Com o seu Menino nos braços

E lhe parecia tão bem.

Gloria seja a de José

E também a de Maria

Que pró ano, se Deus quiser,

Voltaremos neste dia.


Yuletide’s green pine,

Ray of Light so pure,

Bless the Host here present,

And think of those now absent

With love and kind wishes.

Good evening, my good lords,

Our best wishes, we’ve come to give

We have come to ask you gentlemen

Our best wishes, we’ve come to give

We have come to ask you gentlemen

To permit us here to sing.

To my mind there comes a vision,

A remembrance quite divine,

Calling me to invite our Lady

To be godmother to us all.

To be godmother unto us all.

May she come here for to help us

May St. Joseph come here, too,

May he sing along with us.

Underneath the sky in heaven

Is a trough of water cold

Where they baptize our Lord,

Son of the Virgin Mary

Who is so dear to our hearts.

She comes with gifts for the King

She comes with tender care

She comes not to beg forgiveness

In her afflictions

God alone can help her.


We come to bring you our good tidings,

To all you noble gentlemen

That there is born a Child called Jesus

Among the shepherds in Bethlehem

We come here to ask your help

What we want from you is money

Bring the wine from out the barrel

Bring the meat out of the fire

Bring us out your special wine

So we will leave you quite contented

And go elsewhere to raise a fracas

All the little shepherds entered

Here through this one gate divine

For to see the newborn Christ Child

Lying on His bed of straw

We have been to see Our Lady

In the stalls at Bethlehem,

With her Christ Child in her arms,

And He looked so happy there

Glory unto Joseph

Glory unto Mary, too.

A year from now, if God is willing

We’ll be back again with you.

By Roberto Cavaleiro

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Roberto Cavaleiro first came to Portugal in 1982, acting as advisor to international investors. Current interests include animal welfare and writing opinion articles, especially with reference to environmental issues.

Portugal Resident