Festivals and Holidays

Festivals play a major role in Portugal's summers. Even though they have religious connotations, most of these celebrations are, in fact, everything but religious. Every city and town has its own or several festivals. The June Festivities are very popular, these festivities are dedicated to three saints known as Santos Populares (Popular Saints) and take place all over Portugal. The reason why the populace associated the saints with these pagan festivities is not known. The practice is possibly related to Roman or local deities before Christianity spread in the region. The three saints are Saint Anthony, Saint John and Saint Peter. A common denominator in these festivities are the wine and água-pé (a watered kind of wine), traditional bread along with sardines,marriages traditional street dances, fire, fireworks and joy.

Saint Anthony is celebrated on the nights of the 12th and 13th, especially in Lisbon (where that saint was born and lived most of his life), with Marchas Populares (a sort of street carnival) and festivities. In the meantime, several marriages known as Casamentos de Santo António (Marriages of Saint Anthony) are celebrated at the same time. But the most popular saint is Saint John. He is celebrated in many cities and towns throughout the country on the nights of the 23rd and 24th, especially in Porto and Braga, where the sardines, Caldo Verde (traditional Portuguese cabbage soup) and plastic hammers to hammer on other peoples' heads for luck are indispensable. The final Saint is Saint Peter, celebrated on the nights of the 28th and 29th, especially in Póvoa de Varzim and Barcelos, festivities are similar to the others, but mostly dedicated to the sea and extensive use of fire (fogueiras). In Póvoa de Varzim, there is the Rusgas in the night, another sort of street carnival. Each festivity is a municipal holiday in the cities and towns where it occurs.

Carnival is also widely celebrated in Portugal, some traditional carnivals dates back several centuries. In January 6, Epiphany is celebrated in some families, especially in the North, where the family gathers to eat "Bolo-Rei" (King Cake); this is also the time for the traditional street songs - "As Janeiras" (The January ones). Monday after Easter, Pascolea (also known has Dia do Anjo, Angel Day), is used in some areas, usually in the north, to do a picnic, some people work on the Good Friday holiday to have this day off. Saint Martin Day, is celebrated in November 11. This day is the peak of three days, often with very good weather, it is known has Verão de São Martinho ("Saint Martin summer"), the Portuguese celebrate it with gerupiga (an alcoholic drink) and roasted Portuguese chestnuts (castanhas assadas), and it is called Magusto.