If you’ve ever lived in Portugal, you’ll have watched or at least heard of Natal dos Hospitais (literally translates to Hospitals’ Christmas). Every year, a series of concerts featuring prominent Portuguese music artists is televized live from certain hospitals in different parts of the country. The purpose is to bring some Christmas spirit and entertainment to people who are in the hospital at this time of year. The concerts last several hours on a specific day – this year it’s on December 17th. What most people don’t know is how this tradition all got started.
In the late 19th century, the young daughter of poet and social activist Lutegarda Guimarães de Caires passed away. Lutegarda dealt with her grief by visiting children at a local Lisbon hospital, bringing them toys and clothes and treats. Her friends joined the cause and in the early 20th century it spread to all the hospitals in Lisbon; it was then known as Natal das Crianças dos Hospitais, as it was still only for children.
In 1944 (9 years after Lutegarda’s death), the Portuguese newspaper, Diário de Notícias, started the first Natal dos Hospitais for people of all ages, not just kids. In 1958, the first Natal dos Hospitais was televized by Portugal’s national TV station, RTP. It’s now the longest-running entertainment show in RTP’s history – 2015 marks the 58th televized concert. Catch it from 9 am to 8 pm on Thursday. Feliz Natal!