21 Aug 2015 5452
#culture #tradition

Portugal, Land of Traditions

How can such a small country, a "sea-side garden”, be home to so many different traditions ?? Join us on a trip from North to South in search of the Portuguese identity, from the religious and popular festivities to the local gastronomy, the seafaring traditions, and the beautiful melodies of Fado . ..

Popular Festivals . ..

During the Summer season you can let yourself be led by led by the crowds that rush to popular balls, fairgrounds and festivities that take place all over the country. In June, the city of Porto comes alive with the Festival of Saint John (Festas de São João) and a magnificent fireworks display over the Douro river . .. An absolutely unmissable colour show !!

Also in June, Lisbon’s Popular Saints Festival has everyone dancing to the sounds of the arraiais (street balls) and the Popular Saints Marches, a parade showcasing pageants organised by each of Lisbon’s traditional quarters — the exact same places where you will definitely want to lose yourself . .. Besides music, dancing and grilled sardines, you can also find a lot of romance in this Festival . .. this is the time of the Marriages of Saint Anthony, where we can watch many lovers saying "I do” at the Sé Catedral (Cathedral of Lisbon).

Would you like to experience (or relive) the bohemian life of university students ?? Then you should head to Coimbra during student festivities at the "Ribbon Burning” (Queima das Fitas) ceremony. But if you prefer a more idyllic experience, dive into an ocean of flowers — visit the Campo Maior Festivities in the Alentejo region and enjoy the beauty of a rural city covered in paper flowers !! in the Faro district you can also learn your first moves of Corridinho Algarvio, the local folk dance, and join the Algarve’s own Popular Saints celebrations.

Madeira’s own festivities also have their fair share of folklore, as well as the traditional skewered meat meals. Bolo do Caco is another local treat that you may taste at these events, which take place during Summer months in all of the island’s towns and villages.

and religious parades

Religion is the main motivator for many of these annual festivals and events . .. These are occasions for fun and celebration, but one shouldn’t lose sight of the historic importance of these moments !!

A good example of this is the Festival of Our Lady of Agony (Festas de Nossa Senhora da Agonia) in Viana do Castelo. Its highlights include massive religious processions and parades of "brides” wearing Minho’s folk clothing — and adorned with the eye-catching local traditional jewelry ("Viana’s Gold” / Ouro de Viana, recently made famous by actress Sharon Stone).

The origins of some of these events go back to the Middle Ages. At the city of Tomar, in the Ribatejo region, we can get in touch with these roots — every four years the Trays Festival (Festa dos Tabuleiros) takes place. Here, the centre stage is taken by a parade of women carrying trays filled with flowers and religious symbols that go back to the age of the Templar Kinghts.

In the Azores, the Festival of the Divine Holy Ghost draws many emigrants back to the islands to be part of a tradition that goes back to the days of the archipelago’s first settlers.

In Madeira, Christmas begins with special religious services — the Missas do Parto. Both the religious and the pagan aspects of this tradition continue to attract many people, despite the fact that the services begin at six o’clock in the morning. These masses take place in all of the island’s parishes, nine days before Christmas. Each day represents a month of Mary’s pregnancy.


This is a very lively season in the islands as well: the Carnival of Madeira boasts an extravagant parade that brings joy to everyone !! This tradition goes back to the 19th Century and some historians claim that it may have influenced the Brazilian Carnival !!

Carnival is celebrated all around the country. In the district of Bragança, this period is invaded by the cheerfulness of the Podence Carnival, when locals wear folk masks and transform themselves into Caretos — supernatural creatures that play pranks on unsuspecting bystanders !!

In the South you can join the Loulé Carnival parade, the oldest in Portugal. Wear a mask and have fun with the popular humour and social satire of the event’s costumes and the floats’ decorations . ..


The daily soundtrack of this country is called Fado !! It is a melancholic, melodic and beautiful kind of music: a male or female voice sings songs of love, pain, joy, sadness and saudade (longing), with a guitar-based instrumental backing. We can often listen to these sounds in bars and restaurants where "duels” of singers ("despique” sessions) take place. But fado can also be heard in concert venues, clubs, or even on the streets.

The origins of Fado can be found in Lisbon and Coimbra, but these days the music is an essential part of Portuguese culture and identity and is heard throughout the country. A trip to Portugal is never complete without a nice evening listening to Fado !! We guarantee that emotions will be skin deep and that the first chords will make your skin tingle . ..

Gastronomy and Traditions of the Sea

The Portuguese people have always had a deep connection to the sea. Travelling down the country’s coastline you will see its influence in the local daily life, culture and gastronomy . ..

In the Beiras region, it is impossible to avoid the beauty of Nazaré . .. a traditional town down to the core, from the boats and fishing nets to the folk clothing of women selling fish on the streets !! In the Algarve, around the Ria Formosa area, the locals work as shellfish gatherers with old tools, while in the Costa Vicentina area near Sagres, some people dare to climb down the sea cliffs to collect goose barnackles !! A true adventure !!

From the North to the South of Portugal, we find fishermen who spend their lives in boats on the open sea. As would be expected, the local gastronomy revolves around fish and seafood — from the many codfish and shellfish dishes to grilled sardines, the ocean has always provided the Portuguese with a wonderful and attention-grabbing menu of flavours  !!

But it’s not just fish on the table . .. Portugal is also a land of farmers. In the Alentejo and the Algarve we can delight ourselves with the taste of black Iberian pork meat. From the North comes the finest beef for the traditional lunchtime bitoque !!


All of this goes down well with . .. a fine wine. It is a well known fact that wine production has long been one of Portugal’s main activities.

For instance, did you know that Madeira wine was used to make a toast during the Declaration of Independence of the United States?
The grapes that give birth to this very special wine are harvested in late August and throughout September. The Wine Harvest Season is experienced throughout the island of Madeira . .. while the grapes are being pressed barefoot, ethnographic parades and other displays of folk culture take place, as well as wine tasting events.

For millennia, the "nectar of the gods” has been an essential part of Southern Europe’s culture, and Portugal is no exception. From the strong wines of Alentejo and Minho’s vinho verde ("green wine”) to the Port wine and red wine of the Douro region, there is a lot of variety to cheer up your meal and your soul !!

The Experience !!

To set out on a trip to discover Portuguese culture, you will need a prolonged stay . .. and your own refuge to rest and relax !!

Come stay at the PortoBay Liberdade to discover Fado and Lisbon’s Popular Saints Festival, or head to PortoBay Falesia to enjoy the fine gastronomy of the Algarve near the serenity of the sea . ... You can also celebrate the Carnival of Madeira or PortoBay Wine Week with a stay in one of PortoBay’s several hotels in the island, such as The Cliff Bay or Porto Santa Maria, . .. there is a lot to choose from !! Just make your reservation and come by — we’ll take care of the rest !!
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