As in many parts of Europe in the month of Feburary, Lisbon too holds its carnival. It may be a far cry from Venice or Rio, but the locals have their share of fun too, young and old alike. Recently, though, the celebrations have become more simple, owing perhaps to the economic crisis which means less money to spend for this. Nowadays, less people join, and costumes are less elaborate and in cases, with lack of imagination even. Also, it seems that other smaller cities or places outside Lisbon are becoming more and more popular and drawing people in their own more elaborate celebrations. Anyway, it's still nice to keep the tradition even in a simpler way, go to the streets and join the fun.
In summer, Lisbon hosts various festivals in the major city squares lasting several days featuring folklore, handicraft, and food from different regions. Most regions from the north to the south are represented, and it is a very good way to get to know the country without having to leave Lisbon. Each region (or district) has its own association, and its members usually are the ones who participate in these festivals.
Songs and dances, as well as traditional craft such as woodcarving, are presented on the stage. The participants are of course dressed in traditional costumes. Stalls line the sides of the square where regional delicacies are sold, usually breads and cakes of different kinds and a whole array of sausages and smoked meats.
The photos here are from one such event held last summer in Praça Rossio, in the center of the Lisbon.
One of Portugal’s most beloved national figures, and by far its most famous poet, was Luís de Camões. The author of Os Lusíades, the country’s national epic, Camões was responsible, much like the author of the Chanson de Roland in France, for casting the nation’s history into poetic greatness. During his life (16th century), Camões traveled to the East in the footsteps of the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, and it is thus no surprise that his great work Os Lusíades narrates the history of Portuguese discoveries and the challenges faced by Vasco de Gama and other explorers in rounding the Cape of Good Hope. Camões is also credited with fixing the Portuguese language and providing a basis on which Golden Era literature could flourish. For this reason, 10 June is now celebrated as Camões Day, the Day of the Portuguese Language. This is a national holiday and there are obviously celebrations throughout the city (everything is also pretty much closed). It’s also a day of reflection on the importance of the language and its place in the world.
Every year, around April and May, the Feira do Livro (Book Fair) is held at the Parque Eduardo VII. The national association of publishers and bookshops organize this 2 to 3-week long affair, with dozens of stalls selling new books by Portuguese authors, translated books, fiction, non-fiction, academic publications, reference books, old and collectibles, as well as second hand books, and an entire array of institutional publications. It is a great opportunity for smaller publishers to introduce their books to the public, and for lesser known authors to have their works advertised. Of course there are also the usual commercial books which are easily found in all bookstores.
All of these are sold with a significant discount, an average of at least 20 percent from the usual store price. Day specials and promotions are common, sometimes with books selling at just 50-60 percent of the usual price.
A range of activities in the fair include publishers featuring authors, especially of new books, where you can just sit down and have a chat with him or her, and perhaps have your book autographed. A major section is children's books, with accompanying activities for kids. A few food stalls are also to be found in some areas, so you can buy something and munch your way through the myriad book choices.
This year was the 80th annual fair, and while it is still going strong, we noticed that there are much less stalls than there were say, 5 years ago. Either book reading has finally taken a beating in the age of internet (or people read just the same but electronically, which is then all right), or the economic crisis has taken its toll on the local publishers. Either way, it was quite a sad sight to see the park only about three-fifths full with stalls.
For me this is the best time to visit the city. Santo Antonio's party happens on the night of the 12th june (Santo Antonio day is the 13th), and everyone in Lisbon comes out to the streets to celebrate.
Try climbing the little streets that go up to the castle, stopping here and there to eat a sardine and drink a glass of 'sangria' (the more you go up, the more cheap it gets)! And don't forget to buy a 'manjerico' for your loved one! (to smell it, put your hand over the leaves and smell your hand, if you smell directly it dies faster!)
However, you have to get inside the mood of it... Don't expect great higienic conditions on the food stalls! But it's just part of the fun, trust me...
If you get tired of the smell of the sardines, come down to Avenida da Liberdade, where there is the 'Marchas' contest. In this contest, every neighbourhood of Lisbon organizes a group, with dresses and music according to the theme they choose (something related to Lisbon and its history), that comes dancing down the Avenida. Its a great show full of colour, music and joy, but don't expect to see much of it if you arrive late. Streets get pretty crowded!
The Santo António tradition include a game, which should be played on the eve of the day of the saint. It goes like this: fill a small bowl with water and write the names of those you would like (or you think) to be your perfect partner. Roll up the papers, put them in the bowl with the water and place it under your bed. The next day, the paper that has opened up the most will reveal the name of your perfect partner! You don't believe it?... Well, there is no harm in trying, is there?
Marchas Populares is an anual party at the night of 12 to 13. Its the most typical Lisbon party.
From 22h to more or less 1h at "Marques de Pombal" passes ppl with tradicional clothes dancing and singing by groups (one of them wins).
Everyone stays awake almost all night, streets get full and its hard to walk (bad day for who doesnt likes confusion, very good day for who likes parties) just by walking on street u find many groups of ppl dancing, concerts of fado etc, they also sell red wine, sangria tradicional bread and sardines everywhere in streets.
If you happen to come to Lisbon in June, you might see some streets decorated with small flags and balloons. From the 12th June evening up to the next day (St. Antony's day - he was born in Lisbon) people party in the streets. There is a parade in the evening of the 12th in Avenida da Liberdade (from Marques do Pombal down to Restauradores). In the 'bairros' many people grill sardines in the street and drink wine. They probably don't mind if you join them!
The second part of June, people in Lisbon are celebrating their Patron Saint, Saint Antonius. Celebrations are everywhere in Lisbon, especially in the inner town and the older quarters like Graça, Mouraria and Alfama.
Lisboetas like parties, tradition and sardines and what better time of the year to take advantage of all of these than in June? June is the month of Popular Saints, not only in Lisboa but all around Portugal. Santo António is the patron saint of Lisboa. Prayers for the perfect match, for a marriage blessed by Santo António and the smell of grilled sardines and basil plants get together with parades filled with coloured ribbons and festive music.
Between the fifties and the sixties the Santo António tradition known as Noivas de Santo António (Santo António Brides) was supported by the Diário Popular (an old newspaper) and by local business men. In the 1990's the Town Hall of Lisboa brought the tradition back to life, sponsoring couples from Lisboa and joining them in an unique and special moment of their lifes.
There is a traditional game to play on the eve before the day of Santo António (13th of June): fill a small container with water and write the name of those you would like (or think) to be your perfect partner. Roll up the papers, put them in the water and place the container under your bed. The next day, the paper thas has opened the most will reveal the name of your perfect partner! You don't believe it?... Well, just try!
June is a month of street celebrations and festival performances. The better shows are regional although Lisbon makes a good attempt and it's all good fun.