Portugal month by month
The Portuguese enjoy celebrating life. There is a way to live and be relaxed that follows the pace of the calendar, lives at the mercy of the seasons and vibrates with the events and experiences that mark the 12 months of the year. Portugal enjoys going out and to celebrate life. Come out and celebrate with us too!
In Portugal, the year begins with a bang. From north to south, but especially in Madeira, where a dazzling fireworks show welcomes the New Year, and is considered the largest fireworks display in the world. For long minutes, the skies of Funchal fill in a clash of light and color, alluring thousands of people who watch (on land or at sea) the magnificent scenario.
Whoopee in February, fashion in March
At Carnival, the animation is back out in the streets, but this time for three days of whoopee. Ovar, Loulé, Alcobaça have rather to celebrate with Brazilian rhythms, while Torres Vedras claims the status of enjoying "the most Portuguese Carnival in Portugal", but it is in the remote villages of Podence (Bragança) and Lazarim (Viseu) that the party is more genuine. In Podence, the unruly "Caretos" (guys with colorful robes and devilish masks) chase the unmarried girls in a lively run that ends only at night, while in Lazarim, the "kinsmen" (boys) and the "kinswomen" (girls) wear artistic wooden masks, meeting later on (with their faces uncovered) in a duel of mocking rhymes that uncovers each others' nasties.
Many of the masks presented in Podence and Lazarim would be worthy of one of the horror movies in Fantasporto, the International Film Festival of Porto, held in February and March, which gives special attention to the fantastic and science fiction. At this time, Oporto also shows the new Portuguese fashion in "Portugal Fashion" while Lisbon does the same at "Moda Lisboa", fashion events that are also held in October.
In the beautiful medieval town of Óbidos is held a Festival of Chocolate, delighting all visitors. If you are worrying about the calories, forget it, because you can always burn them (about two weeks later) in the Lisbon Half Marathon, joining the thousands of participants who cross the April 25 bridge, running or walking. A unique opportunity to discover the most amazing views of the Portuguese capital.
Holy Week and May 13
The Holy Week is marked by the religious practices taking place throughout the country, but one most impressive is held in Braga. This city in Minho welcomes thousands of pilgrims and tourists, attracted by a secular ritual that has its highest moments in the processions at night, which have a strong dramatic intensity.
Five weeks later, it is the time for Azorean to demonstrate their faith during the festivals of Lord Holy Christ (Senhor Santo Cristo), when the archipelago's largest procession goes through the streets of Ponta Delgada, richly decorated with floral carpets. In April, the highlight is the Music Days, a major national event of classical music in the country, mainly because it can merge into a single space (CCB, Lisbon) connoisseurs and the general public, always in a relaxed and informal environment.
The country's religious fervor becomes again evident during the celebrations of May 13 at Fatima, which celebrate the apparitions of Our Lady to the three seers. That day, the Sanctuary welcomes up to half a million pilgrims, many of them after making dozens or hundreds of kilometers on foot.
Another of the great events of the country's center is the Burning of the Ribbons of Coimbra, an academic tradition old of many centuries, which in late May organizes parades, concerts and serenades throughout the city, one of the oldest university towns in Europe.
Sardines, saints and feasts for the people
June is one of the busiest months of the country, thanks to the Popular Saints celebrations that take thousands of people to celebrate St. Anthony (13th), St. John (24) and St. Peter (26). Dances, colorful balloons and grilled sardines are a common denominator of these lively nights, but every city enjoys to have these celebrations in their own way. In Lisbon, for example, buy yourself a basil and attend to the St. Anthony Parade at Avenida da Liberdade, to see the various Lisbon neighborhoods parading in colourful garments. In Porto, tradition tells the revelers to hit with a leek on the head of the neighbors of the party.
Because they require great work some major events do not take place every year. This is the case with the Tray Festival in Tomar (held every four years between late July and early August), in which hundreds of girls parade through the streets of the city with huge trays of bread on their heads. More uncertain is the Festival of Flowers at the small Alentejo town of Campo Maior, because, tradition says, the Festival is to be held "whenever the people wants it to be held." The last took place in 2004, dazzling everyone and everything with an unusual show of paper flowers decorating the streets of the town.
What is repeated, invariably, every summer is the "pilgrimage" of the Portuguese to the shore in search of a place in the sun at one of the many beaches in the country. The warm waters of the Algarve attracts many to this region that is also famous for lively seafood festivals and the most glamorous parties in the country.
But it is not only in the Algarve that the country "moves" in August, because this is also the month of choice for most festivals in Portugal, perfectly blending popular entertainment and the religious component. The most famous are perhaps the Fair of St. Matthew, which takes about one million people to Viseu, and those of Senhora da Agonia, in Viana do Castelo, when women in the region wear their folk costumes and the rich gold necklaces, passed from generation to generation.
Many summer festivals that take place throughout the country, bring to Portugal some of the most famous international bands and musical performers. The quiet village of Vilar de Mouros was the first place to organize one such festival, which earned it the title of "Portuguese Woodstock", but since, many more have been organized from north to south: the Festival in Paredes de Coura, also in Minho, the Super Bock Super Rock, in Oporto, the Rock in Rio every two years in Lisbon, or the Southwest Festival, on the Alentejo coast, to just mention those of highest attendance.
From grape to chestnut harvests
Announcing the dismissal of Summer, September brings along the traditional grape harvest with their sacred rituals, such as the harvesting or treading of the grapes, which in some places is still made according to the old ways, that is... with the feet. These grape harvests are held all over the country, but those that offer the best scenic spectacle are, without doubt, in Douro, one of the first wine regions of the world.
In a country of good food, events of gastronomy are a must. Among them is the National Festival of Gastronomy, held in October in Santarem, a city famous for bullfights and its monumental National Agricultural Fair. Also in the Ribatejo, in the village of Golegã the Martinmas (November 11th) is celebrated with a typical feast celebrating the horse - the National Horse Fair - which pays a special tribute to the Lusitano horse breed. This is the perfect time to taste the first wine of the year, called "água pé" and eat tasteful boiled or roasted chestnuts.
BD, jazz and football
November is also a month rich in events, widening the country's cultural calendar. In Guimarães, World Heritage city, an important Jazz Festival is held, and in Espinho the turn comes to Cinanima - International Festival of Animated Film - while in Amadora (near Lisbon) is held one of the most important European comics festivals, the International Comics Festival of Amadora.
For lovers of sport, football is king in Portugal, so it's always worth watching a "derby" between Benfica and Sporting, but throughout the year the country hosts many other events of world importance, such as the Estoril Open tennis, the surfing and body boarding international stages or the Rally of Portugal.
December is the month of Christmas and the spirit of the season can be felt in the streets and in every home, not only due to the usual shopping spree, but especially in the rituals that continue to be practiced by most Portuguese, like the decoration of the Christmas tree or the family supper with cod and "bolo-rei" on the dinner table.
In Portugal it is so: there is always a good reason to celebrate life.