CABEÇA ALDEIA NATAL 2021
Upon a friend’s recommendation we took a day trip to the captivating and unique Christmas village of Cabeça, Seia in the Serra da Estrela mountain range. It’s only 30 km from our home but takes 50 minutes by car due to the winding mountain roads. Every Christmas for the past eight years, the 170 residents of Cabeça transform their remote rural village into the most authentic ecological rustic winter wonderland.
Festive Fun – Memories are the Best Souveniers
We had so much fun wandering around the quaint narrow cobbled streets and under the gorgeous arches lovingly hand decorated with forest ferns, jade green moss covered stars and romantic hearts sprinkled with vivid bright red forest berries. We explored every nook and cranny, walking hand in hand, soaking up the ambiance and admiring all the old schist houses with rustic bracken wreath adorned doors, holly garlands, carved wooden statues, cute chapels, handmade traditional decorations including tapestry bows, woollen baubles made from the famous Serra da Estrela wool from bordaleira sheep, Presépio’s, awesome Christmas workshop and gorgeous pop up stalls selling local regional foods and handmade crafts, ornaments, and souvenirs. Hubby was attracted to a little shop with all crochet and knitted crafts. He wanted to buy a crochet sheep with googly eyes but I wouldn’t let him as I’m trying to be frugal (ha ha). I told him “Memories are the best souvenirs”.
As you walk around the village you can’t but help fall in love with the breathtaking scenery. The schist houses look so magnificent with the contrast of the dark schist colours against the bright blue sky and there are stunning views of neighbouring villages nestled high up on the hilltops.
Misty Mountains – Moments of Pleasure
This is one of my favourite photos of the day. We wandered down a narrow alley to find the most spectacular view of a little village in the distance and the misty mountains kissing the fluffy clouds.
Mystery Wooden Displays
There are lots of these little wooden hut type displays dotted around the village which look fantastic all lit up at night.
Fabulous Festive Food and Drink
We made a pit stop at one of the many taverns for tasty caldo verde and coffee. You will find menus etched in chalk on slate resting against the walls. There are plenty of offerings including tasty hot chocolate, waffles and crepes. If you have a sweet tooth then don’t miss a visit to Loripão Pastelaria (Bakery) for the famous Bolo Rei (King Cake). There was a delightful pop up stall selling Serra da Estrela cheese and chorizo sausage. Don’t leave without sampling the local Aguardente liquors, only don’t drink and drive as the twists and turns of the mountain roads can be scary at night and you don’t want to zig zag off the side of a mountain, never to be found again, Cheers!
Day and Night view.
Nuts for Nutty Helen
I saw what I thought was a giant cement mixer in the distance. It turned out to be a Portuguese gentleman selling nuts and the machinery is used to mix and roast the nuts. The aroma was out of this world and was way too tempting. I really need to get my eyes checked at an opticians ASAP (ha ha).
Eco-Décor – Beauty and Biodiversity
I LOVE the fact that all the decorations are handmade by the local community and they only use natural products and recycled materials sourced from the mountains e.g. from the clearing of forests: broom, vines, pine trees, leaves, corn canes and other sustainable recycled materials like wool and no plastic tat insight. This village cares about respecting the environment and biodiversity. So much effort and hard work has gone into this creative wonderland. The main theme is statues hand carved from wood which are adorable.
I LOVE Nativity Scenes and my favourite was this one displayed outside of the Oficina de Natal (Christmas Workshop). Each figure is hand carved from tree trunks and Joseph’s fern wig is very grand. He looks a lot like hubby – twins separated at birth (ha ha).
I also really liked this Presépio although some of the wooden carved people were quite scary looking, a bit like me first thing in the morning (ha ha).
Day and Night view.
The local residents go to great lengths to decorate their little village and this tiny little Presépio on the front steps of a residents house made me smile, how cute!
We stumbled across 3 chapels and we viewed the interior of 2. One beautiful church was empty inside so I took some tranquil quality time here to reflect on 2021 and pray for my friends and family.
I LOVE the old rustic doors decorated with bracken wreaths, fruits and ribbons.
The Secret Door
We walked past a door that was slightly ajar and there were a few Portuguese tourists peeking inside. At first I just assumed it was someone’s house, a resident’s personal home so I didn’t want to intrude but then I got a glimpse of the beautiful cosy setting with traditional furniture so I sent hubby in to get a closer look and to our surprise it was a beautiful typical Portuguese home all set up for Christmas, how fantastic!
Swing into 2022 with sun on your face and joy in your heart! It was such a sunny day in late December and I was rather hot in my thick tights. I did have a jumper with me as I know that once it turns 17:00 the weather changes and it’s rather chilly.
I even found some wooden bunny rabbit sculptures, our families favourite animal.
Magical Fairytale – Simplicity and Sparkle
The magic begins at dusk when the Portuguese hilltop village lights up like an angelic magical fairytale, full of light and colour. The village is home to thousands of LED lights, illuminating the alleys and typical schist houses of Cabeça (remember that this was the first LED village in the country, a real contribution to energy efficiency and promotion of low carbon economy). The grand Christmas tree is dazzling especially at night. It was breathtaking and actually brought a tear to my eye.
Friendly Local Villagers
I often wonder what it must be like to live in such a tiny village which transforms into a huge tourist attraction every Christmas. I personally would hate it but the local residents were so friendly. We saw a few locals wandering around the village with their walking sticks and others were hanging out in the main square wearing their comfy slippers. Most of the occupants are elderly and we chatted to a couple of locals, well tried to (our Portuguese is still pants even after a year of school tuition). What a friendly bunch of locals, welcoming tourists from far and wide with open arms and with broad smiles. The villagers are extremely proud of their culture and heritage and enjoy sharing a little slice of their heaven with us tourists each Christmas. Look at this cute display in the front of a residents garden. They only have a tiny space but have made it look so fantastic, I love the stone statues and toadstool.
The only downside was the state of the toilets. The ladies bathroom facilities were nasty. The floor was wet, muddy and very slippery. One toilet was blocked, dirty and out of action and there was no toilet paper in either of the 2 toilet stalls. This wasn’t a problem for me as I always carry a packet of tissues just in case. There was a sink but the tap did not work so I couldn’t wash my hands which was concerning. I exited as fast as I could and found the nearest shop with hand sanitiser at the entrance. What did make me laugh was the fact that hubby was waiting outside for me and overheard a British lady saying “There is no toilet paper and I need a Poo”. Bless her, her real life dilemma did make us laugh our heads off. I got the feeling that she thought everyone was Portuguese and couldn’t understand her speaking in English. Apart from the toilet drama there was also a random teenager who let a few fireworks off which made me nearly have my very own code brown accident (ha ha). I spared you a photo of the loo, just in case you are eating or have a weak stomach, believe me when I say you will thank me for this kind gesture (ha ha).
Overview – A True Christmas Spirit of Communion and Sharing
What a truly unforgettable experience. We had so much fun exploring Cabeça, such a unique and traditional festivity and for once we were not the only ones there at this wonderful Christmas village. I am not surprised as Serra da Estrela is such a popular tourist attraction. Cabeça reminded me a lot of Piódão which is another schist village near us. The celebrations run between the 18th December and the 2nd January 2022 and Cabeça is the most ecological Christmas village in the country and is often referred to as the Christmas crib village. It really is a special place that warms your heart and soul. The whole village is inspiring and overwhelming in a good way. It was lovely for me to be able to relive old childhood memories and dreams, exquisite old fashioned simple charm which I miss greatly.
If you have had a belly full of mince pies and enough of tacky tinsel and plastic Santa’s and you care about your planet and LOVE everything artisan and enjoy traditional Portuguese rustic winter wonderlands, then this is certainly the place for you. It was such a refreshing change to witness such a mountain marvel and experience the true magic and meaning of Christmas – the spirit of communion and sharing.