Madeira Christmas, 26th of December
The 26th of December is a regional holiday in Madeira. It is a day to rest from the busy Christmas day and another day to spend with family.
In Funchal some families are already joining the “Boxing day” tradition though most of them go to the shops to change their clothing gifts. Cinemas are also a popular choice on this called “First Eighth” in Portuguese Primeira Oitava.
On rural areas there is a tradition of releasing paper balloons. Families gather to built handmade balloons with the so called “butter paper” and glued with banana tree sap. This paper is always colorful on a square shape and the balloon is made with a pair number of sheets. The base of the balloon is a wire structure where the ameixa (plum) is put on to be burnt and provide hot air. The ameixa is made with a tissue covered with wax and petrol.
To release the balloon it is hanged on a tall cane, then someone starts a fire under it until it gets full of hot air and starts to ‘fly’. To announce its release someone blows a helmet-shell which can be heard through the neighbourhood.