Last Updated on June 14, 2022 by Letícia Melo
Get your party clothes ready and gear up for an experience of a lifetime! The Portugal Popular Saints Festivals are about to begin, and you really wouldn’t want to miss out. Music, parties, mouthwatering food, dances, and so much more.
Find out all about the rich Portuguese culture and why these festivals came into existence. And for our beloved tourists already enjoying Portugal, we’ll tell you how you can be a part of these celebrations. Are you ready to be out and about all night long? Let’s dive right into the details!
What are the Portugal Popular Saints festivals?
The Portugal Popular Saints Festivals symbolize the country’s culture, with celebrations lasting throughout June. These festivals represent traditional catholic roots and honor the three popular saints; St. Anthony, St. John, and St. Peter.
You might think these festivities are new, but their history goes centuries back. As you might probably know, the main religion in Portugal is Catholicism. The three saints hold much significance in Christianity thanks to their contributions, knowledge, and devotion to the community’s wellbeing.
These traditions were first celebrated in the 13th century and are alive to date. However, the magnitude of these celebrations keeps on getting bigger and better. Over the years, themed marches, weddings, and parties have become a norm–everyone loves it thoroughly. Expats, like yourself, love to be part of the spectators of the marches or dance in the crowds.
The festivities begin in full swing by the second week of June and last till the end of the month. If you’re currently enjoying your summer in Portugal, keep an eye out for the most exciting time of the year. You wouldn’t want to miss it; keep reading to know why!
When do the festivities happen?
The festivities are known as Santos Populares, and they’re the highlight of the year. The Festas de Lisboa is on the 12th and 13th of June for St. Anthony, primarily in Lisbon. The São João celebrations for St. John are mostly held in Porto on the 23rd of June. And lastly, for St. Peter, the Festas de São Pedro on the 29th of June, mainly in Póvoa de Varzim.
June 13th is the birth anniversary of St. Anthony; the celebrations commence in Lisbon because he was born in the capital city. He was well-respected for his sermons and Catholic theologies. In fact, he’s the only early Franciscan preacher whose sermons have been kept safe to this day.
The next saint, St. John–a sacred Baptist, is tributed on 23rd June. During the 19th century, the São João festival became one of the most significant celebrations in Porto. These festivities go back more than six centuries. While the traditions and rituals have stayed intact, the famous festival is celebrated in more than one way. If you’re in Porto during this time, be ready to stay up till dawn on the 24th of June.
The last Santos Populares festivities take place on the 29th of June for St. Peter. The Póvoa de Varzim Holiday has evolved over time, especially after the 21st century. St. Peter was the first Pope of the Catholic Church, thus holding incredible honor. According to traditions, the 29th of June signifies the date of the martyrdom of St. Peter.
Santos Populares festivities in Lisbon
Santos Populares festivities start off in full swing in the heart of Portugal. Since the celebrations last all night, the 13th of June is also a public holiday in Lisbon. After all, the locals need ample time for preparation, and Lisboetas love to go all out.
The Portugal Popular Saints Festivals are a great time to make fond memories with the people you cherish. The Portuguese use this as an opportunity to disconnect from the online world and experience the magical celebrations around them. Every corner of every street is buzzing with joy, dances, festive music, and delicious food.
The Festas de Lisboa starts on the night of 12th June with themed parades marching down Avenida da Liberdade. It’s the beginning of an entire month of celebrations, and people love to decorate their homes.
For Santo António, each district dresses up in different themes and performs dances to songs made for the historic occasion. You’ll see grandparents sitting at the tables, and children and adults dancing around in costumes they’ve prepped for months.
Portuguese folk music is enough to keep toes tingling with delight while you enjoy the famous barbequed sardines. We’re sure you’ll spend half of your day feasting on Caldo Verde (green broth soup), wine, Sangria, and fresh grilled seafood.
Another wholesome tradition on Santo António Day is to offer a planter of Marjoram to one’s fiancée or lover. Marjoram is an aromatic herb that symbolizes love for the person who receives it.
The streets of Lisbon fill up with thousands of locals and visitors prepared to walk miles, have endless conversations, and dance till they see sunlight. If you’re wondering when to visit Lisbon, June is undoubtedly the best time! The festivities last all night long; you won’t even notice the time fly by. No one living in Portugal should miss it.
São João festivities in Porto
The next traditional Portuguese festivities fall on the 23rd of June with equally energetic vibes in the second-largest city. It originated as a pagan festivity in the 14th century to thank the sun god for a good harvest. Over the last seven centuries, many traditions have stayed as they were, truly intertwining with Porto’s identity and rich history.
São João festivities usually start with a barbeque to grill some delectable ribs or sardines with your family and friends. If you prefer eating out at a restaurant, remember to book in advance! The night is extra busy, and you don’t want to miss out on any of the fun that awaits.
Thousands of people gather around for free concerts in the city to sing along to the array of musicians. To partake in the main show, stay close to Porto’s main avenue around midnight, Avenida dos Aliados. That’s where the real fun is.
The most amusing parts of the São João festivities are the Portuguese traditions you get to be a part of! From dancing in impromptu balls with strangers to hitting each other with leeks and everything in between. Yep, you read that right!
The main tradition of the festivities is softly hitting anyone you see on the street with a leek (symbolizing luck). The leeks have also been replaced with a plastic hammer, which you’ll see many people selling on the streets.
To end the night, the Portuguese gather near Dom Luís Bridge to be mesmerized by the stunning fireworks.
- Did you know Lisbon and Porto have more than 760,000 inhabitants in total? Just imagine the charm of the streets during these festivals! Wouldn’t you want to Find Your Community In Portugal and experience these beautiful celebrations with them? Of course, we all would love that.
Santos Populares festivities in Madeira
Even though Lisbon and Porto are the main cities where the Santos Populares festivities occur, Madeira isn’t short of anything. Remember how we said these celebrations take place all over Portugal?
The Festa dos Santos Populares (Festival of the Popular Saints) is very beloved by those living in Madeira. Funchal’s streets fill up with colorful parades, food stalls, music, and last but not least, bonfires.
Like many other religious festivals, this month in Madeira embodies worship, family time, food, and entertainment. The most modest celebrations are for São Pedro, just as June comes to an end.
São Pedro is honored as the protector of fishermen. Thus, festive celebrations happen near the fishing ports of Câmara de Lobos, the south-eastern side of Madeira. Around midnight, after the colorful parades, there’s a pyro-musical show ear the bay of Câmara de Lobos.
As a farewell, the Santos Populares festivities end with multicolored candle-lit hot air balloons to light up the sky. Finally, the Portuguese bid their goodbyes with a fireworks show near the south-eastern side of Madeira.
Should I join the festivities if I’m not Portuguese?
Without an ounce of doubt! Our answer will always be yes, yes, and more yes! The festivities are just the right thing to immerse you into the local culture.
The Portuguese culture is extremely welcoming; hence people are the same. Hundreds of expats and tourists travel to these respective cities just in time to experience the magic. The crowds will always welcome you, offer lip-smacking food, and dance next to you in the crowd.
While these traditions might seem a little unusual, especially as a new expat, you’ll be rather thrilled by them in no time. The Portugal Popular Saints Festivals are an excellent conversation starter, so get out there and have fun!
Looking forward to experiencing Portugal?
Has this article sparked your interest in experiencing the Portugal Popular Saints Festivals someday? We bet it has! The good news is you don’t have to stay away for too long. Whether you’re planning to be a tourist or relocate to Portugal, Viv Europe is all the help you need.
If you’re looking to connect with expats who’ve relocated recently, join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. Here you’ll find people from many nationalities who’ve fallen in love with the Portuguese culture. Ask them what it’s like living in the fourth-safest country in the world, explore opportunities, and get ready to fly!
And remember, our team of professionals is always here to assist you every step of the way. Feel free to Contact Us when you’re ready to turn your dream into a reality.