Why Christmas and New Year’s Eve are so magical on Madeira

Christmas and New Year's Evening on Madeira

With Christmas right around the corner, what other way to theme our first blog post than the festive season and the Christmas Spirit on Madeira?

Bolo do Mel da Madeira, traditional Madeiran Honey Cake
Bolo do Mel, traditional Madeiran Honey Cake

During the month of December, the island of Madeira will be completely transformed into a decorated piece of art, and the Chrismas spirit on Madeira will be felt all over. As soon as the normal daily life ends and the moon takes place for the sun, almost everywhere you go, whether it is in Funchal or pretty much anywhere else on the island, you will find beautiful decorative lights that truly transform the streets into a cosy place to stay. Your whole body will be filled with warm feelings as soon as it gets dark and that feeling will not go away until you leave to go home again.

Traditional Madeiran Food & Drinks

Madeira is known worldwide not only for the Christmas lights that invade all the parishes of the island and especially the streets of the centre of Funchal but also for the traditions that remain from year to year. Taste our traditional delights like Honey cake, honey cookies, fennel candies, chicken soup, cherry sour in chocolate cups, liquors made with the exotic fruits grown on the island, Madeira Wine and the famous Poncha. You can find all of these in stalls all over the island during the festive month.

Recipe Bolo do Mel – Madeiran Honey Cake


  • 45g or 1/3 cup finely chopped raisins, dates, or cranberries
  • 45g or 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 250g or 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 45g or 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 113g or ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 55g or ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • ¼ tsp ground star anise
  • 85g or ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 8 g or 1 package active dry yeast
  • 175g or ½ cup honey


  • Take 125g of flour and mix all the chopped nuts and dry fruits, so it is all evenly coated. Set it aside.
  • Meanwhile sift the remaining flour with the baking soda and ground cloves, cinnamon, star anise, yeast and set aside.
  • Now cream together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar until fluffy.
  • Add in the eggs, one at a time and mix well.
  • Now add the honey and give it one final stir with the hand mixer, making sure you scrape the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients to this and fold gently using a spatula. At this point, the batter is quite loose.
  • Now fold in the fruits and nuts mixture that is coated with flour. The batter is now quite thick.
  • Transfer the batter to a large well-greased bowl, covered with a clean dry cloth, and allow it to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours. Note: The batter will rise only slightly, but it will become spongy and light.
  • Grease an 8-inch pan with butter and line with baking paper.
    After 2 hours stir the batter down and transfer it to the greased pan. I used an 8” pan because I wanted a tall cake.
  • Using whole almonds make daisy type flower on the top of the batter which gives it its signature look.
  • Cover with a cloth and allow to rise again for 1 ½ hour.
    Toward the end of the second rising, preheat the oven at 170 degrees C.
  • I made a baking strip using a thin muslin cloth dipped in cold water and wrapped it in aluminium foil to make a long strip. I then wrapped this strip around the baking tin so the cooking and rise of the caking are evener.
  • When the batter looks properly risen, bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until it begins to pull away from the edges of the pans and feel springy to the touch.
  • Cool the cake right-side-up for 10 minutes, loosen the sides with a knife and turn the cake out. Allow cooling before cutting.
  • These cakes keep well in the freezer for about six months if wrapped in foil and plastic wrap. The cake can be drizzled with Madeira wine before freezing and after defrosting.
  • In Madeira, the popular way to frost these cakes is to sift confectionery sugar on the top.

Enjoy 🙂

Source: https://myculinarysaga.com/bolo-de-mel-madeira-honey-cake/

Many, many, many Christmas Lights

At night, Funchal is even more exciting due to the sound of music that comes from the free Christmas concerts adapted to all ages. As you take your time to watch the different luminous images that you find on each street, the multicoloured trees you will find everywhere, the large Illuminated Christmas Tree in the marina and even the finest details of the great crib, you will surely smell an odour of moss, the decorated natural Christmas pines and the roasted chestnuts that spreads through the air.

christmas lights Madeira 2019
Christmas lights Madeira 2019

In the Municipal Park of Funchal, you will find decorations that will undoubtedly leave you with an enchanted feeling. Santa’s sleigh, giant reindeer, a Christmas train, little houses and giant candies are some of the figures and animations you will find in this place that looks like a real Christmas Village.

         The true Madeiran Christmas spirit

All in all, we can say that the Christmas spirit on Madeira island is certainly all about lots of excitement, children jumping and playing on the streets, friends and family dining traditional meals and garlic bread and sipping the traditional drinks. These are some of the things what you will find as you stroll past each stall. This conviviality amid the lights, the colours, the background of Christmas music and the voices and shouts that can be heard from the carousels of the harbour amusement park is something that you must experience at least once in your life!

On December 24th it is usual for the Madeirans to organize a great Christmas dinner with the whole family, and soon after, at midnight, they all attend the Childbirth Mass before making the exchange of gifts. That night, most families also welcome Santa Claus who comes to give presents to the younger children.

New Year's Eve on Madeira

Shortly after Christmas day, while every one that is on Madeira is still enchanted by a cosy and warm feeling, the new year is waiting! New Year’s Evening is something that is not celebrated lightly on Madeira. During the last day of the year, the population of the island slowly starts flowing towards the lower areas of Funchal to experience one of the biggest fireworks shows on earth during the change of years. This year will be even more special as we will head towards a new decennium.

World Record holding fireworks show

The Fireworks show of Funchal held the Guinness World Record for “Biggest Fireworks show” from 2006 to 2010. New Year’s Evening is certainly one of the best times to visit Madeira, whether you want to view the spectacular show from land, by boat or cruise ship. Many cruise ships have special routes that pass by Funchal during the change of years. This is such a special show because of the beautifully synchronized fireworks that will be shot from the Marina all the way to the highest parts of the city, and even on specially designed boats from the ocean near the marina.

This spectacle also marks the end of the Festive month. Shortly into the new year, the population of Madeira will restart their normal daily lives, and everything will remain to normal, as if nothing had ever happened. Therefore, a visit at the end of December and beginning of January will give you the experience two completely different sides of Madeira.

Some of our Christmas & New Year's Eve Tours



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