Christmas Lights Switch On 1st December
Extraordinary, amazing and unmissable, IT’S Christmas, a magical time in Madeira, where the streets of Funchal and other towns around the island including Porto Santo are bathed in a kaleidoscope of colour, brilliance and beauty. This year the lights have been designed to shine even more brilliantly as new images have been incorporated in this year’s theme depicting Madeira’s traditions and customs as the illuminations commemorate the 600 years since the Discovery of Madeira and Porto Santo.
The switching on of the Christmas lights at the beginning of December heralds the start of the ‘silly’ season, and no one can fail to be impressed by the dazzling lights, static displays, and abundance of flowers, including Poinsettia towers, which enliven Madeira’s capital twenty-four hours a day.
If you have lights, you must have music. Philharmonic bands, Mandolin concerts, performances by the Madeira Orchestra as well as the islands choirs and choral societies all produce some of their most beautiful and dramatic works to celebrate the season of goodwill. Whether these are intimate concerts, open-air productions, church recitals, the organisers are adept at adapting to any location, including shopping centres.
Notwithstanding Madeira’s more colourful and vibrant side, December and the Christmas festivities are a vitally important time for both islands religious calendars, and as such nine masses or ‘novenas’ are held from the 16th of December to the 24th. After mass the celebrants gather together to sing carols, enjoy traditional music and treats such as ‘broas,’ a type of Madeiran biscuit. Of course, midnight mass on the 24th is a profound and moving experience. In addition to the religious festivals, the city and towns are adorned with ‘presipo’s or nativity scenes, each one is unique in its celebration of the birth of Christ.
One of the islands most outstanding events must be the Christmas market in Funchal on the 23rd of December. The streets of the Old Town are adorned, filled with laughter, excitement and joy as last-minute shoppers, families and friends jostle in what can only be described as a frantic atmosphere as people get together to enjoy impromptu Christmas carol singing and enjoy performances from local bands and folklore groups. This is the best dusk to dawn party of the year.
In Funchal, Avenida Arriaga is the perfect place to stroll and pick up those last-minute presents at one of the numerous stalls, selling everything from flowers, especially slipper orchids which are particularly abundant at this time of year and other stocking fillers. The atmosphere is eclectic with residents and tourists appreciating the festive atmosphere, enjoying a drink together and strolling through a warm winter wonderland. For those unable to join in, The Ritz Madeira Live Webcam gives viewers an up to the minute look at what is going on, allowing for a submersible experience in the comfort of your own home, wherever in the world that might be.
Of course, Christmas is one thing, but the New Year Celebrations in Madeira are out of this world! In the city centre, the atmosphere becomes more excited and elated as the day progresses with bands and folklore groups providing a vast array of entertainment for both residents and visitors to the island.
Throughout the day cruise liners either dock or moor out in the bay, their towering splendour, lights and on-board fireworks preparing everyone for the excitement yet to come. On occasions, ships crews have been known to serenade spectators as they provide their own crowd-pleasing entertainment by orchestrating and performing a ‘ships horn fantasia.’ This year it is believed that ten cruise liners will be moored in and around the bay all waiting for that all-important stroke of midnight when the skies of Madeira shine, glimmer and reverberate as the islands all-important fireworks light up the heavens in a beautiful orchestration of colour, shapes and awe-inspiring beauty.
For those unable to attend, the Funchal Marina Live Webcam and Funchal City LiveCam will be showing the whole evenings entertainment through its live feed, so even if you cannot be there, you will be able to enjoy this outrageously noisy End of Year celebrations as if you were there yourself.