Nobody I have spoken with here on the South Coast can explain why an ancient Portuguese tradition encourages children, some as young as six, to smoke cigarettes during a two-day celebration of the Epiphany.

Parents not only pat the kids on the back for smoking but assist them by flicking the Bic. Needless to say, this has caused an outcry from around the globe! Locals say this practice has been passed down for centuries, but like here, nobody can say with certainty what it symbolizes or why parents purchase the cigarettes and goad the kids to light up and smoke for the duration of the celebration.

The legal age to purchase tobacco in Portugal is 18, but nothing prohibits parents from giving their first and second grader's a Marlboro Short. Jose Ribeirinha has published a book on this tradition that takes place in a remote village by the name of Vale do Salgueiro, about 280 miles northeast of Lisbon.

With so many residents of Portuguese descent around here, what do you think of this religious custom that no one can explain?

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