Portugal is a country of tradition and costumes and Easter is no exception. The religious holiday is well celebrated in the country – comparable
After you move to Portugal – or even if you’re just visiting – you should get to know the country’s national holidays. Not only to avoid potential inconveniences, since most services close during these days, but also to grasp and discover Portuguese history. Let’s dive in!
Due to being a mostly Catholic country, a lot of Portugal’s national holidays are religious, while the rest are historical or global, such as January 1st. There are 13 public holidays in total, plus an optional extra, which is Carnival Day. Each municipality also has one other holiday that typically coincides with the region’s Patron Saint’s Day. For example, Lisbon’s is June 13 – the day of Saint Anthony – and Porto’s is June 24 – the day of Saint John. These days are usually also heavily celebrated in their respective towns.
This one needs no explanation. New Year’s is a celebrated holiday all over the world and Portugal is no exception.
Carnival is a big Western festivity, known for being exceptionally celebrated in Brazil and in Venice, Italy. It is also pretty big in Portugal meaning that, although legally optional, most companies choose to celebrate it as a day-off. It takes place exactly 47 days before Easter, on the first day of Lent.
Many cities all over the country are known for their Carnival celebrations, such as Ovar, Torres Vedras, Funchal (Madeira), Sesimbra and Loulé. These consist of big public street parties and/or parades combining some circus elements, costumes, music and drinks. In most of Portugal, Carnival is seen as a second Halloween, in the way that people get dressed up as characters and in humorous attire in general. The Carnival parades are also synonymous with political and social critique.
Naturally, both Easter and Good Friday fall on different days every year. Since Portugal is historically Catholic, Easter is almost a second Christmas for the Portuguese – comparable to Thanksgiving in the US. It’s traditional for families to get together on Easter Sunday to eat lamb, ‘pão de ló’ and give each other ‘amêndoas doces’ (sweet almonds).
Lent rules aren’t generally socially followed, except for Good Friday where the vast majority of local restaurants won’t serve meat.
This is the first historical public holiday of the year in Portugal, and it is of utmost importance. On this day in 1974, the Portuguese military forces and people revolted and the country was finally liberated from a 48-year long dictatorship. It is known as the Carnation Revolution, for soldiers put carnation flowers inside their guns to symbolise the lack of violence in the revolt.
Just like in many other countries, May 1st is a public holiday in Portugal. It was illegal to celebrate the day during the dictatorship (‘Estado Novo’), so, after the revolution, it started being heavily commemorated with parades, protests and rallies – ways that remain until present day.
Corpus Christi is a religious holiday that happens 60 days after Easter Sunday – always on a Thursday. The First Communion takes place on this day for kids attending ‘catequese’ (Sunday School). It is when children first receive the Eucharist. After the ceremony, families usually hold a celebratory lunch in a restaurant.
This day marks the death of Luís de Camões – an important Portuguese poet known for his works regarding the Portuguese ‘Descobrimentos’. It is also the day of Portuguese communities, the Portuguese language, of citizens and of ‘Forças Armadas’ (the Military).
Another religious holiday that marks the taking up of Mary into heaven. It is not particularly celebrated in any way.
October 5th marks the end of the monarchy and beginning of the Republic in Portugal, which happened in 1910 after a revolution was set in place precisely for that purpose. Usually governmental celebrations are held on this day.
This religious holiday is also international and inter-cultural. It celebrates all Catholic Saints – both the known and the unknown. It’s a big tradition for people to go to cemeteries to visit their deceased loved ones and leave fresh flowers on their graves.
Portugal was briefly under Spanish rule, between 1581 and 1640, a time period known as the Philippine dynasty. December 1st marks the day where a group of unsatisfied Portuguese nobles staged a palace attack in Lisbon against the Spanish to restore independence.
A religious holiday that celebrates the Holy conception of Mary. It is not particularly celebrated in any way except for in church.
Comes with no explanation! Just like in many other places, Christmas is a very important time and date in Portugal. Families always get together to eat food, exchange gifts and celebrate.
While all municipalities in Portugal have one, the most important are:
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