October 19, 2005

Festivals in Portugal

Festival at Fatima
© Dias dos Reis

There is probably a festival of some sort going on every day somewhere in Portugal.

Attending a traditional festival (festa) is a great way for any visitor to Portugal to absorb something of Portuguese popular culture and get to know better the local people and their way of life.

Portugal's strong Catholic heritage, allied to the many local pagan customs which were integrated into the average person's religious convictions, has lead to a popular culture rich in a firm belief for many Portuguese in saints, miracles, lucky charms, healing springs, shrines, offerings, magic, cults and superstition.

Every town and village in Portugal has a patron saint, whose saint's day is celebrated with gusto by the whole community, thus fostering a sense of communal identity and local pride, long lost in many other parts of Europe. The main themes of these festas is a procession of a statue of the patron saint after Mass from the local church, accompanied by fireworks, music, dancing and joyous merrymaking involving copious consumption of wine.

Portugal is not just about traditional festivals - new ones are springing up all the time. From 13 October to 6 November see a modern festival - The National Gastronomic Festival in Santarem.
The festival is 25 years old this year and each day of the event is dedicated to a region and its food.

Guide To Portugal's Festivals

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