The best of Portuguese popular festivities and traditions.
PART II of the post published on July 25th:
Whenever traveling to a particular country, one is usually drawn to its history and heritage. As such, we tend to focus our attention on mystic castles, cobblestone plazas, national museum, and rich palaces. And that’s just fine, provided you’re a history addict.
However, traveling like that is like being invited to a dinner party and overlooking the guests and what they have to say. If you really want to know a country inside out you have to pay attention to a bit more than just the physical assets, you need to focus on the intangible and what lies beyond. A country has so much more to offer besides museums!
One of the many things you can do as a tourist is to get immersed in the local traditions. What better way to have fun and learn about a country at the same time? This is probably the best approach to understand where people come from. Why the country is what it is. Why there’s so much of “this” and so little of “that”. Why the personality traits of the country are much more melancholic or much happier… With its close to 900 years of existence as a country (even more as an inhabited region), Portugal is swarmed with interesting folklore stories, tradition’s and festivities, which intrinsically explain the personality of the Portuguese.
Given Rootfarers’ purpose of providing authentic experiences to authentic travelers, it only makes sense to come with us and embark on a quest to find the best festivities and traditions the country has to offer, moreover most of them take place in the Summertime so now it’s the ideal time to get out and explore these outstanding traditions! In this post, we will provide you with a Top 10 list of Portugal’s best festivities, fairs and traditions spread out through the country.
We tried to get a bit from every region of the country as well as from every period of the calendar, so please bear in mind this list is conditioned with this approach. Just an additional heads up: We didn’t include Lisbon and Porto main feasts of Saint Anthony and Saint John as their kind of mainstream and we wanted to share some off-the-beaten-path locations. So without further ado here’s part 2 of our Top10 list dedicated to the best of Portuguese “Festas”:
6- Festas do Povo
The “Festas do Povo”, translated as People’s Feast in English, take place a bit everywhere in Alentejo, but the most well-known venue is in the small city of Campomaior near the Spanish border. Just like the city of Tomar with the “Festa dos Tabuleiros”, street decoration with paper flowers and other motifs is taken seriously here. Apart from that, you can always get familiar with the local crafts and gastronomy.
When: Uncertain as it depends on the will of the people (on average every 4 years).
Why it’s different: Street decoration. Of course, you can´t overlook the local food as well.
7- Feira do Cavalo – Golegã
If you’re into horses, then you can’t miss the Horse Fair of Golegã. This quiet little town in the region of Ribatejo, just 1H North of Lisbon, transforms itself into a horse Universe during mid-November, usually during the feast of Saint Martin. There are many things you can do and witness here, all of them are horse-related: Dressage competitions, Horseball games, traditional costume completion, among others. That being said, the best thing you can do is just to wander around the venue and get lost in an Ocean of horses, you’ll eventually end up finding something interesting to see.
When: Every year in November (first 2 weeks).
Where: Village of Golegã.
Why it’s different: Have you ever seen a horse inside a bar?!
8- Festa do Colete Encarnado
Not far from the village of Golegã, the village of Vila Franca de Xira hosts every year the “Feira do Colete encarnado” (Red vest feast). The name comes from the uniform worn by the “campinos”, cattle herders in the Portuguese region of Ribatejo that used to wear a green and red stocking cap with a tassel, white shirt with full sleeves, short dark trousers and of course… A red vest! While Golegã’s horse fair is solely focused on horses, the Red Vest Feast takes a broader approach and besides the horse, it celebrates the role of the “Campino” in Portuguese agriculture. Bullfighting is a big thing in Ribatejo so prepare to get some of this and other bull related traditions during this feast.
When: Early July
Where: Village of Vila Franca de Xira
Why it’s different: Campino costume parades, focus on Ribatejo traditions (namely Bull runs and bullfights).
9- Festa da Ria Formosa
While most of the feasts in this list have a religious origin or association, the feast of Ria Formosa is simply a food party. But a particular type of food: Seafood from the “Ria Formosa” natural reserve! The feast is organized by the local association of fishermen and mollusk producers so you’ll get this aura of traditions throughout the feast with many exhibits of handicrafts, fish stands and of course some folk music.
When: Last week of July and the first week of August.
Where: Faro and around
Why it’s different: Probably the best seafood you can get in Portugal.
10- Every village patron saint festival
Every Portuguese little town has its own patron Saint feast. That’s a fact. As such, the best thing you can do if you don’t want to plan anything in particular is just to wander around and try to see if there’s anything going on nearby, especially during Summertime. Be sure to understand what’s the underlying tradition, attend a procession, talk with the locals, eat the local food and perhaps give yourself a chance at the dance floor later in the night!
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