3 most popular festivals in Portugal

Portugal is one of the oldest nations in Europe. From ancient time they are famous for bravery, architecture, culture, tradition, music and religious festivals. Because of the splendid celebrations, travelers go there to experience and observe the festivals. Most festivals are religious in nature and carrying rich history and traditions. In modern times their New Year celebration is becoming more popular day by day. The warm and friendly hospitality with drooling local dishes, your stay will be memorable and make toy cherish it all the time. Festival times are very crowded with noise and chaos. The whole country comes alive and becomes colorful. The carnival, the New Year and the Holy week of Braga are three major festivals that are discussed below.

The Portugal Carnival (March 1-5)

The carnival of Portugal is very popular among the tourists. The day is declared as public holiday. To get to know the local customs, traditions and music this is the best event. The carnival is arranged before the Lent. It marks the end of winter. Although the event is similar to many other carnivals held in different parts of the world, it has some significant sides for its rituals and activities. People from all over the world come to visit the country and take part in it. Normally it is held in the month of February. The event is organized for three weeks. Party, fun, dances, music and local cuisine are there to enjoy. The carnival is almost 100 years old. In Italy, the Catholic people would celebrate the day before the Lent by wearing costumes and having traditional foods. They would have a feast with meat and gobbled as much as possible because they could not have that during the Lent. They called it carnevale means ‘give up the meat’. Slowly they started celebrating it in a larger scale and it became popular. Many neighborhood countries of major Catholic religion such as Spain, France and Portugal were inspired from the idea and started to arrange their own carnival. During the carnival, the capital city Lisbon is crowded with locals and visitors to enjoy and have fun. This is all about dancing, singing and wearing costumes. People put lots of effort into the costume preparation. A theme is selected every year for the event. Then the preparation begins. The creativity and artworks are shown with various costume ideas. Best costumes are selected for giving awards. The authority works very hard to make everything perfect. You can taste all the local scrumptious food from the road side stalls. Parades with colorful costumes and stunning floats are arranged. If you want to experience the cultural influences of Portugal and mingle with locals, this is the best chance to do that. The time of Lent is meant to be conservative. That means no singing, dancing and no meats and gluten. The devotees give up meat for religious reasons. So they celebrate with all their hearts before that. Many villages follow their own customs and traditions to celebrate. Apart from Lisbon the carnival in Madeira is also very famous. The streets are filled with music, samba dancers, caricatures and colorful costumes. The weather is warm and comfortable at this time. They arranged two main carnival parades. Each one has a defined route and end in Municipal Square. The people in Madeira eat a traditional thing called Malasadas. All the lard and sugar of the house are used to prepare this. You can find it in roadside food shop as well. You may find many lucrative offers from the hotels at this time.

The New Year (December 31-Januar 1)

If you want to have a different and unforgettable New Year, you may consider Portugal as your next destination. The New Year’s Eve on 31st December is celebrated in a grand way in Portugal. In Porto, people gather in front of the Porto City Hall where many street parties are heldand fireworks and music can be enjoyed. People start to gather in the evening and keep celebrating past midnight with alcohol, music, food and dance. Due to New Year’s Eve celebration, Porto has become one of the most popular spots.People can taste various traditional dishes and have knowledge about the history and culture. People go to enjoy live concert in Avenida dos Aliados. This becomes one of the busiest and crowded places in the town. You can go for cruises of the River Douro to get the spectacular view.You can visit a night club to enjoy and party crazily. The cruise parties with dance, music and toasting champagne with everyone are going to be memorable. The ocean looks so beautiful and with all the fireworks illuminating in the sky. They have a unique tradition of eating 12 raisins. They make 12 wishes by wearing something blue at midnight. Each raisin represents a month. It is believed to bring luck for that year. When the clock starts to strike, they will eat the raisins which are divided from the bowl placed on every table. You can buy raisins from local markets and have them with champagne to share the joy. The local people are quite traditional and superstitious. They have few unique beliefs. One is, if you start your New Year with an empty pocket the whole year will be the same. So no one empty their pockets fully. Also they make sound and noise by hitting pan with a wooden stick to drive away the evil spirit. They will make the noise after eating the raisins. Fireworks are arranged in different cities to welcome the New Year. The skies are exploded with bright, colorful and vibrant fireworks. In Guinness World Record the fireworks in Madeira is recognized as the grandest firework show around the world. The fireworks are kit from different place of the island. You will be spell bounded for sure. In Lisbon, you can enjoy fireworks on top of Castelo de Sao Jorge near River Tejo. There are also casinos to chill at night in Monte Gordo and Vilamoura. All other cities like Nazare, Albufeira and Funchal are also well known for their spectacular arrangements.

The Holy week of Braga(April)

Though Easter is celebrated in every corner of the country in a grand way, the celebration of Braga is popular in the whole world. The event is now “Declared of Interest to Tourism” since 2011. Almost 2,000 years ago Braga was founded by Romans. The celebration is the imitation of the Holy week in Jerusalem. A woman pilgrim went to the holy land and wrote down all the traditions of Jerusalem in details. From her people started to celebrate the Holy week in different part of the world. The Holy week celebration was started to be held in 16th century. The processions are created and designed innovatively with an inspiration from history and religion. Almost 100,000 people attend the parade. The Cathedral promotes the event with the brotherhoods of Mercy and the Holy Cross. The city council of Braga, the North of Portugal Tourism Organization and the Commercial Association of Braga are also in the organizer list. Many steps and processions are followed to celebrate. Transfer of the ‘Step Lord’ is arranged by a simple procession where the image is transferred from the Holy Cross’s church to the St. Paul’s church. The next day the Cross is traveled by eight stations. During the parade the people sing a very old religious song. It is called martirios (martyrdom’s song). The in the Palm procession people joined the palm branches and sing songs for the Christ. This procession known as Steps procession is where all the dramatic scenes and paintings are displayed. Various partsof Christ’s life and all the events are performed by the artists. The audience watchesthe entire emotional chapter.All frameworks of the eight ‘steps’ of Christ on the road to Calvary, are displayed in various locations of the city and also the property of the Holy Cross. They are opened in front of the devotees and decorated beautifully with flowers. The other time of the year, they are kept away from everyone’s eye. Street pendants, street art and posters are used to decorate the city. The other processions with different meaning and theme are also arranged for the whole week. Lord’s Burial procession is another important ritual the sign of mourning. Resurrection procession is the last one with removed the coffin where it had been buried the previous day. The sing a song ‘He is risen! He is risen!’ The sanctuary of Born Jesus do Monte in Braga is a place very popular among the tourist. It was built in 18th century. This is a breathtaking place to visit.

The only thing to do now, is to pack your bags, so that you can experience these festivals in person. But before you leave, make sure to check out the German website from Backpackertrail. There you will find more information about what to expect when you start your journey to Portugal.

List of other major festivals of Portugal

  • January – New Year
  • February – Madeira carnival
  • March – The carnival, Lisboa Dance Festival, Sand sculpture fiesta
  • April – Semana Santa,
  • May – Iberian Mask Festival, Fatima
  • June –NOS Primavera Sound, PraiaGrande Beach Game, National Agricultural Fair,
  • July – Cascais Festival, Super Bock Super Rock
  • August – Feira de Sao Mateus
  • September– Feira de Sao Mateus
  • October – Vintage Festival
  • November – Feira Nacional do Cavalo
  • December – Christmas, the New Year’s Eve

David Lockhart