A part of the celebration of the Epiphany in the Portuguese village of Vale de Salguéiro, provokes annoyance among foreigners each year.
Namely, during the ceremony, parents encourage their children, including those of five years, to smoke cigarettes.
The local population claims that this custom has been practiced for centuries as part of the celebration of Epiphany, but nobody knows how to explain exactly what it symbolizes and why parents buy children’s cigarettes and encourage them to smoke.
A two-day ceremony ending with a weekly Mass includes playing around camp fire, music and the choice of “king” that serves a large amount of wine and snacks.
Jose Ribeiro, a writer who wrote about the ceremonies in that village, says this tradition has unknown roots, but that it may have to do with the re-awakening of nature and human life.
In his words, this village adheres to many traditions that originate from pagan times and adds that this was also due to the fact that the village was 450 km away from Lisbon, which preserved this tradition.
In Portugal, it is forbidden to sell cigarettes to persons under 18, but nothing prevents parents from doing so, and the Portuguese authorities do nothing to prevent that practice.
As in many European countries, measures are being taken to reduce smoking in this country, including a partial ban on smoking in indoors.