Rita Lopes

portuguese christmas tv over time

Yesterday I gave a talk on how Portuguese Christmas TV has evolved over time, and here’s a little bit more on the same topic, either in addition to what you heard yesterday, or as a short summary of what it really is (and has been) like.


If you live in the UK in 2015 you are used to 60 Freeview channels and, as the name suggests, you don’t have to pay a specific provider to gain access to. If you live in Portugal in 2015, however, you’ll have access to an astounding 4 free channels. Of which I remember the birth of 2. No, I’m not joking! Free TV in Portugal started in 1957 with RTP1 (a public broadcaster), and on Christmas day of 1968 a second channel from the same broadcaster—named RTP2—started broadcasting (see? Christmas TV.)

It wasn’t until 1992 that channel number 3 (called SIC) came to live, and I remember it happening. It was a big change from conventional programming up until that time and it was widely talked about due to having reaching significant audience ratings within the first few years of broadcasting. In 1993 the 4th and, for now, last free to view channel in Portugal started broadcasting, TVI. At the time it was launched it broke from the mainstream programming schedule by clearly segmenting their programmes with the mornings intended to appeal to elderly and/or housewives, the afternoons dedicated mainly to the youth and the evening primetime airing many, primarily American, series. Until then, week nights had been more focused on news, national productions or Brazilian soap operas.

watching tv over christmas

I recall watching TV during the Christmas period since I was a kid and I promise that if you ask a portuguese person over twenty what shows portuguese TV is likely to air during the holiday period there are a few that may come up as standards: Home Alone, The Sound of Music and animated movies and/or cartoons. This is almost guaranteed.

When I was thinking about how to structure my talk and dug a bit into this I discovered some more interesting facts. Firstly, it’s incredibly difficult to track down programming information from decades ago (online anyway) and, secondly, that it seems to be a time when a lot of reruns are aired—more than usual. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I remember the channels closing for the day and opening the next morning (tunes and everything), it’s not like now when channels run for 24 hour a day. And when I say reruns I don’t just mean a repetition of something that aired the day before or the week before; I’m talking about those shows that are for one reason or another memorable and so you get to see it again… 10 years later. I had never really thought about it before, but from the sparse information I managed to gather, this happened quite a bit.

and the winners are…

So, what are the recurring shows you may ask? Sadly, I can’t say for sure for the 90s, as I don’t have the data, so this conclusion may be a bit waffly… Home Alone is, by far, the one show that I hear more people make jokes about over Christmas, which means it takes the trophy, I suppose. Another big one, I hear talked about by older people but I, too, remember: The Sound of Music. Another programme that definitely needs at least a medal will be circus shows. Circus. Every. Single. Year. I remember particularly well the yearly International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo. Although this is still an annual event, I haven’t seen it on TV for a while.

and in 2014 I saw…

I barely saw any TV. Blame all the gadgets, plus having way too many places to go and people to see. The one I did see was Home Alone 5. It was a surprise, as I didn’t know it was a thing! I was almost sad that it wasn’t the original one, but it didn’t last long. Not two days later, there it was. Portuguese Christmas TV, once again, failed to disappoint 🙂

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