During Epiphany celebrations in the Portuguese village of Vale de Salgueiro, an unusual sight unfolds each year: Children, some as young as 5, smoke.
Why does this happen? Apparently, children smoke as a part of a tradition that has been followed for centuries as a part of a celebration of life tied to the Christian Epiphany and the winter solstice — but no one is certain of what it symbolizes, and there is no explanation to why parents buy the packs of cigarettes for their children and encourage them to smoke.
The celebrations lasts for two days, starting Friday ending Saturday with a Mass, and people dance around bonfires, as piper music plays and an elected "king" distributes wines and snacks.
The legal age to purchase tobacco in the country is 18. But when parents buy packs of cigarettes that are later used in the celebrations for children, no one intervenes, not even the Portuguese authorities.
Parents are criticized every year for following this harmful tradition, but many don’t find anything wrong if their children smoke for a day.
“I can’t explain why. I don’t see any harm in that because they don’t really smoke, they inhale and immediately exhale, of course,” said Guilhermina Mateus, a 35-year-old coffee shop owner. “And it’s only on these days, today and tomorrow. They never ask for cigarettes again.”
Even though Portugal, like many other European countries, has taken steps to reduce smoking, including a partial ban on smoking indoors, it hasn’t done anything about the Epiphany celebration smoking problem.
People on social media were outraged with this information, claiming this is tantamount to child abuse.
Parents in Portugal encourage their children, some as young as 5, to smoke cigarettes to celebrate the Epiphany, sparking outrage among outsiders https://t.co/OJOgwXS7wU pic.twitter.com/oXXcsApwlU via @YahooNews— ARnews 1936 (@ARnews1936) January 8, 2018
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, Carlos Barria