The most commonly used Portuguese name for grandmother is avó. Variations are avozinha, vovó or just vo.
Both grandmothers and grandfathers are referred to as avo, but the pronunciation is different. Avô for a grandfather is pronounced “a-voh,” with the variant vovô being pronounced “vo-voh.” Avó for a grandmother is pronounced “a-vaw,” with the variation vovó being pronounced “vo-vaw.”
Grandmothers in Portuguese Culture
Traditionally, Portuguese culture has been very patriarchal, due to the influence of the Catholic church and a government that was not progressive. Women had very few rights, but they were still powerful within their family units.
Following the coup of 1974, sometimes called the Carnation Revolution, a constitution was adopted that was more favorable to women. They gained the right to vote, to carry their own passports and to manage their money. Divorce was legalized at about the same time.
Some Portuguese Traditions
Grandparents and other extended family members are important in Portuguese culture, although a network of friends is also prized. Because Portugal does not have a lot of social services for its citizens, kinfolk and friends play important roles in child care and elder care. Grandparent child care is definitely part of the equation in many families.
Social skills are highly valued in Portugal, and such traditions as using a polite form of address are still very important. Good table manners are essential, and loud or boisterous behavior is frowned upon. The Portuguese are said to be indulgent toward their children, but they expect them to display good manners.
When the Portuguese talk about their grandmothers, they almost always mention food. Although Portugal is a very small country, it contains a variety of geographical zones, so is home to a variety of crops. Also, the Portuguese seafaring tradition means that the people of this very small country were exposed to cuisines from many other places. As a result, Portuguese cuisine is rich and varied.
Portuguese cuisine makes heavy use of five spices: cinnamon, paprika, cumin and a hot pepper known as piri-piri. The Portuguese also have a tradition of using leftover bits of meat to create hearty stews and sausages. Codfish, or bacalhau, is also a staple. Not all dishes contain meat, however. Caldo verde is a traditional soup made of onions, potatoes and kale. Pastries are also a highlight of Portuguese cuisine. Breakfast is usually coffee and a pastry, occasionally with cheese or ham. Portugal is famous for its port but actually produces many fine wines.
Holidays and Traditions
Most holidays in Portugal are based on the religious calendar and are enthusiastically celebrated. Christmas is an especial favorite. Christmas celebrations focus on the family and include attendance at a religious service. Churches and homes feature nativity scenes, but many homes also have a Christmas tree.
The major Christmas meal is usually consumed on Christmas Eve, and it is traditionally a meatless meal, with salt cod or another fish dish serving as the main course. A favorite holiday dessert is Bolo Rei, or King Cake, which contains coins or trinkets and is customarily consumed on Epiphany.