If you read my last post, The Christmas Tag, you’ll know I’m not the biggest fan of the commercial side of Christmas. I’ve never even taken my girls to a Father Christmas Grotto, that’s how much I dislike that kind of thing – and queues!
The Cascais Christmas Village is no Winter Wonderland in Hyde park, which I’ve been to once. Actually, it’s more boutique like, but on a budget.
We had a fabulous time at Cascais Christmas Village. There was a great atmosphere, lots of greenery and plenty of lovely Christmassy things for the children to do.
What’s on offer
We visited Father Christmas’s house, the Snow globe, watched the real reindeers and many other animals (including free ranging cockerels, an owl and white bunnies – random, but cute), watched a performance by the elves, had the ever important face painting done and created a reindeer craft with recycled materials in a workshop led by Clube dos Cascalitos. We browsed the market stalls, where we found a Apito D’Agua (Water Whistle), courtesy of Passarinhos de Portugal. In simple terms, the Apito D’Agua is a traditional bird made of clay, that makes the noise of a bird when filled with water and blown like an instrument.
We also stopped by to say hello to the three wise men and their camels, part of the live nativity setting. If you’re not familiar with live nativity settings, essentially, volunteers impersonate characters from the nativity in ‘real time’. The three wise man told us that they were resting and waiting for night time for the star to appear and guide them. We also come across a heavily pregnant Mary walking around the precinct. Things progress ‘live’ until the 25th of December when baby Jesus is born.
Naturally, we stopped for photos with all sorts of interesting creatures and toys around the precinct and had a fartura, Portuguese fried dough rolled in sugar. Farturas can be found at popular community fairs and festivals, similar to the Spanish churro dough but much bigger and without chocolate sauce.
There was so much more to do and see, including a tree house, ice rink, a roman camp and donkey rides. It’s a lovely fun fair, with an educative element embedded, so the children can understand what it was like at the time Jesus was born.
A summery Christmas
We spent four hours at the precinct and could have done more things but, outnumbered by three children aged between 2 and 4 years old, we were just too tired. If we knew it was this good we might have arrived a couple of hours earlier just to give us enough time to enjoy more of what was on offer and to pace ourselves.
Mind you, at 14 degrees Celsius it was not exactly the most Christmassy environment, but it was lovely all the same. It was a warm sunshiny day which even for Lisbon is uncommon in December. After such a busy day, with cries of sugar candy and popcorn, the grown ups were desperate for an ice cold Portuguese beer!
A budget boutique Christmas experience
With entrance at just 5 euros for children over 3 years old, and 6 euros for adults (and an extra Euro each on weekends) this experience was a bargain, considering all attractions inside are free. We could easily have spent that money on just two rides and face paint in London. Plus it was not as busy as Winter Wonderland and looked very pretty with plenty of greenery all around the precinct. Even the fartura that cost us 1 Euro each would have easily cost 3 times more in London.
You might argue that salaries, as well as prices, are bigger in London, but don’t forget that the pound sterling devalued a lot since the referendum in 2016.
In any case, Cascais Christmas Village proved to be very pleasant, good value and a nice surprise indeed. Needless to say, the children had a magical day!
Still stuck for Christmas ideas? Check this Christmas Gift List for bilingual families