Nine days before Christmas (16th till 24th of December), in almost all parishes of the Diocese of Funchal is the celebrated "Missas do Parto" (Masses of childbirth), a religious heritage that is experienced by the parish communities, through songs and events. Despite a tradition of being secular, the "Childbirth Masses" is still one of the largest demonstrations of popular religion and culture on Madeira.
These celebrations in which the locals meet early in the morning from 16 to December 24, are an important part of the Christmas traditions, that certainly goes back to the first settlers of the island.
These masses celebrate the pregnancy of the Virgin Mary, and each Mass represents one month of pregnancy. They take place before the Missa do Galo (Mass of the Rooster), a special Mass dedicated to the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. Childbirth Masses occur every day between 5 and 7 in the morning, when the night is turning into day, to symbolize the fact that the Baby Jesus is the light that is born in this world.
It is a tradition of great significance that symbolizes the beginning of Christmas celebrations in Madeira. Neither cold nor the rain of the morning of winter will stop the faithful of Novenas. Going to the church where you can drink hot coffee with a "cheirinho" or grogue or a copito of brandy with honey, to avert the cold and sleep. In some parishes philharmonic bands through the streets with the castanets, the bombos, "cabrinhas" and acordeons, awakens the one that are still asleep. In older traditions, is the búzio that makes a 'call' at two hours in the morning: everyone knows that voice, who also beats their doors on his way.
During these nine days songs will be sang in the churches that may well have five centuries of existence. Traditionally, in the open space in front of the Church, the local population bedecks the venue with Christmas decorations and offers traditional Yuletide fare to the faithful and the visitors alike.