Christmas Holidays and Parents in Conflict - opinion article by Nuno Cardoso-Ribeiro in Público

Opinion article by our coordinator in the Público newspaper of 05/12/2023, on the parental conflict regarding the Christmas’s holidays.

Read the article on Público’s website or the translation or in PDF below:



Christmas Holidays and Parents in Conflict

More than studying calendars and analyzing dispatches from the Ministry of Education, it is crucial to pay attention to the paramount interest of the children.


The beginning of Christmas school vacations is often a pretext for parental conflict. One parent may understand that the holidays start at the end of the last day of school—usually a Friday—while the other believes they only begin on the following Monday.

The start date of the holidays is relevant because it determines the application of the regulations concerning school holidays (Christmas), typically outlined in agreements regulating the exercise of parental responsibilities or in judicial sentences in cases where regulation has occurred in a legal context.

So, where do we stand?

In principle, the school holidays for children attending public education follow the schedule published by the Ministry of Education. The exception is when the agreement on parental responsibilities or the judicial sentence defining this exercise contains a different rule.

In the current year 2023, in schools with a traditional organization by academic periods, Christmas school vacations begin on December 18, Monday, according to the school calendar for the years 2023/2024. Thus, during the weekend of December 16 and 17, the “general” regime regarding children’s time with both parents during school days will still apply. This means that the regime stipulated for vacations in the agreement on parental responsibilities or in the judicial sentence will only start on December 18, Monday.

For schools that have adopted a semester-based organization, the holiday break begins on December 22, and therefore, this will be the first day subject to the vacation regime outlined in the parental agreement or judicial sentence.

As for children attending private education, attention must be paid to the school calendar in force at each educational institution. Similar to public education, the vacation regime defined for Christmas will only apply on days designated as holidays or during breaks.

This is a recurring concern for parents, especially in cases where parental conflict persists, leading to frequent misunderstandings. It would be advisable, therefore, for both the texts of agreements signed by parents and judicial sentences to clearly define what should be understood by the concept of “school holidays.”

In the case of children who have not yet even entered preschool, it is especially important to define the “holiday” periods allocated to each parent.

More than studying calendars and analyzing announcements from the Ministry of Education, it is important to consider the best interests of children, which primarily involves having cooperative and communicative parents. In this and many other matters.”


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