Traditional Portuguese Mamã Sayings: Part 1

Traditional Portuguese Mamã Sayings: Part 1

As my one and only child is now 11 years old, it’s been a long while since I’ve been in the newborn baby world. In the last few months I’ve had the chance to spend some quality time with two little babies of friends, one that was 2 weeks old and one that was 2 months old! You could definitely say that my ovaries were tingling while holding and cuddling them!

The memories it brought up from when my son was a newborn somehow related back to all of the “advice” my mamã had for me every step of the way.  However, all of this advice didn’t always have an explanation behind it, it was just “advice” that was passed around and down through families and small towns in Portugal.  It’s possible that other cultures or countries have some of the same traditions or sayings, but these were taught to me specifically by my Portuguese mamã, who Is from central mainland Portugal. If anyone knows the reasoning behind some of these, please share your knowledge with me!  I typically question everything, it’s in my nature to want to know the “why” behind everything, so when I don’t get the answers I want, it leaves me feeling off. (ie. the whole “you need to wait 3 hours to go swimming after eating” rule that ruined many beach days during my childhood, and all of my fellow European friends can relate, only because our mamãs couldn’t tell us the scientific reasons behind it)

These sayings or advice were so many that while my son was in his first year of life I often thought that I could write a book about them (but I had no time to, because you know…BABIES).  So instead, I will write them in a series of blog posts…there are that many!  Please remember that these are not verified/certified/real/professional/to be adhered to!  They are simply “sayings” or “old wives tales”.

Here are the first 5:

  1. If you are a woman and you are currently menstruating, you should not expect your meringue to whip or your cakes or your bread to rise, nor would you be allowed to help crush the grapes for making wine since the wine wouldn’t ferment.
  2. While you are pregnant, if you have any food cravings whatsoever, you must give in to them!  If you don’t, your baby will be very weak and fragile.  Usually whatever you are craving and then eating, your baby will really like when they are old enough to eat it.
  3. Pregnant women should not attend funerals. It is believed that the spirit of the deceased will be attracted to the unborn child and therefore the unborn child could be born with the colouring of a deceased person (pale). Also the spirit could also attach itself to the unborn child, and if evil, could use the child to do bad things.
  4. Once you have your baby, you or others should not ever stand or sit behind your babies head so that they look up and behind to see you…it’s bad for their eyes to roll back to look behind themselves.  It could make the baby’s eyes crossed.
  5. And finally, the sweetest saying that I have no problems believing: When your newborn baby is smiling or laughing while they are sleeping, it is because they are playing and dancing with the angels.

WEIRD right?  Yup….but as a kid growing up, you just went along with what your mamã said, cause mamãs are always right!?

Thank you to my two reliable sources (my mamã and my cousin) who try to give me as many details as possible as to the origins of these sayings and listen patiently to all of my questions. (But why? But how? Who said this?)

Stay tuned for more traditional Portuguese mamã sayings! Also, if you know of any that you would like to share, please feel free to comment below!  Different regions or areas of Portugal (and other countries) may have had their own traditions or sayings, so it would be interesting to see what other’s mamãs have said to them.




Portuguese Culture 101 – Fado music

Portuguese Culture 101 – Fado music

This week I attended a concert in Toronto that gave me many saudades (feelings of longing or melancholy) for the country of my heritage, Portugal.
Mariza is a well known fado (translated in English means fate) singer around the world and although she has performed in Toronto many times, this was the first time I had the opportunity to witness her passion and amazingness on stage.

Fado itself is a musical style generally thought of as very sad, or evoking much sadness. However, as Mariza explained during her show, fado is so much more. It can be happy too, because it is more about feelings of melancholy as opposed to just sadness. Regardless, even those who do not understand the Portuguese language can still feel these emotions come through in the music and songs, mainly due to the passion of the fado singer.

Fado is usually performed by one singer, male or female, who is accompanied by a classic guitar player and a Portuguese guitar player (a very specific style of guitar). In Lisbon, one can go to many different “Casas de Fado” (fado houses) to hear either professionals or amateurs perform.



One of the most famous fado singers in the world was the irreplaceable Amália Rodrigues, who was known as the “Queen of Fado” before her death in 1999.  Nowadays, the new group of young fado singers are helping to bring fado back into the mainstream of Portuguese music.  Mariza, with her distinct look and sound, is one of the most well known young fado singers; she has appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, toured the world and performed in the most prestigious venues, and has been nominated for a Latin Grammy three times.

If you ever have the chance to attend a fado performance whether in Portugal or elsewhere, I encourage you to go and fall in love!  So many non-Portuguese speaking people love it so, therefore proving that fado transcends all languages.

You can check out Mariza’s tour info here.