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The Festival of St Anthony in Lisbon (Festas de Lisboa)

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Festival of St Anthomy - Wedding Ceremony

Festival of St Anthomy – Wedding Ceremony

 

Lisbon goes into party mode in mid June with the celebration of the Festival of St Anthony (Festas de Lisboa). For several days, the whole of Lisbon becomes one big party for the celebrations in honour of St Anthony of Padua, the “Matchmaker Saint” and “the Recovery of Lost Items”.

The lanes in the historic districts of Lisbon are decorated with buntings having the symbols of sardines and basil plants.

The lanes in the historic districts of Lisbon are decorated with buntings having the symbols of sardines and basil plants for the Festival of St Anthony.

 

This travel article describes our experience of our visit to Lisbon for the Festival of St Anthony in Lisbon or Festas de Lisboa.

On the streets of Lisbon, the windows are decorated with flowers and sardines

On the streets of Lisbon, the windows are decorated with flowers and sardines for the Festival of St Anthony

 

 

Preparation for the Party which starts later in the day and goes on all night long

Preparation for the Party which starts later in the day and goes on all night long

 

Lisbon changes its mood. There is celebration, drinking and eating, music and dancing, matchmaking and weddings and of course parades.

 

Celebration and eating at the Festival of St Anthony

The various areas Lisbon gets decked out with decorations – across the roads and paths, restaurants and cafés, shops and houses. Cafes and Bars close their windows and set up their tables outside on the road. They build an outdoor kitchen for grilling sardines. The whole area lights up with merry making on the streets – song and dance, food and drink with streamers and other decorations. The air is filled with smoke from the grilling of sardines and Pimba music is heard everywhere.

The whole area is decorated with buntings in the primary colours of Portugal – green and red. There are the symbols of the festivities – basil plants and sardines. Sardines play an important role in Portuguese culture as the people are heavily dependent on the sea. Grilled sardines are the food of choice for this Festive Day. The festivities continue till early morning.

One of the many images of sardines in the festivities. This one is large, 2 meters (or 6 ½ feet) long

One of the many images of sardines in the festivities. This one is large, 2 meters (or 6 ½ feet) long

 

 

Matchmaking and Weddings at the Festival of St Anthony

As it is the Festival of St Anthony, the Matchmaker Saint, it is expected that there would be love and romance in the air. A tradition for men looking for love is a gift of a basil plant to someone special. There are pots of newly sprouted basil plant (for newly sprouted love) which are shaped to form a ball. Together in the plant is coloured paper mâché flower with a special love poem.

Pots of Basil Plants with paper mâché flowers and special love poems.

Pots of Basil Plants with paper mâché flowers and special love poems for the Festival of St Anthony.

 

Another tradition in this festival is to hold a collective wedding ceremony where the brides are known as “Brides of St Anthony”. They receive the blessing of St Anthony at the historical Lisbon Cathedral in the historic district of Alfama.

The “Brides of St Anthony” in the wedding ceremony in Lisbon Cathedral

The “Brides of St Anthony” in the wedding ceremony in Lisbon Cathedral for the Festival of St Anthony

 

Eleven Happy couples with a spray of confetti

Eleven Happy couples with a spray of confetti.

 

The couples being interviewed for Portuguese Television

The couples being interviewed for Portuguese Television

 

The couple at the foot of the Statue of St Anthony. The groom present a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the statue.

The couple at the foot of the Statue of St Anthony. The groom present a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the statue.

 

The Statue of St Anthony of Padua – the matchmaker saint.

The Statue of St Anthony of Padua – the matchmaker saint.

 

The couples pose by the Shrine of St Anthony. Note the placements of pots of Basil plants on the stairs.

The couples pose by the Shrine of St Anthony. Note the placements of pots of Basil plants on the stairs.

 

 

The Parade at the Festival of St Anthony

The Marchas Populares parade starts at about 10 pm which goes down the Avenida da Liberdade. It is participated by the various local districts of Lisbon, provinces of Portugal and previous overseas territories like Angola and Macau. Rivalry is said to be fierce and standards high. The winner is declared at about 3am.

A romantic dance featuring the boy giving the girl a basil plant to express love.

A romantic dance featuring the boy giving the girl a basil plant to express love.

 

13 Another dance troupe

The highlight of the parade – The brides of St Anthony with their partners.

The highlight of the parade – The brides of St Anthony with their partners.

 

This travel article describes our experiences of the Festival of St Anthony in Lisbon. It was fun, exciting, enjoyable and highly recommended.

 

Factfile:

More information on Lisbon can be obtained from Tourism of Lisbon.

TAP Portugal has daily flights from Manchester, London Heathrow & Gatwick to Lisbon; prices start at £121 return including all taxes and surcharges. For further information on the web or call 0345 601 0932.

 

References:

Liz Stark: Travel to Lisbon: What To Do in 3 Days

 

About Dr Michael Oon:

Michael was brought up in Singapore and came to the UK for schooling. He was a forensic scientist at the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory (New Scotland Yard, London) for 20 years. He is now a consultant practicing traditional feng shui and works with property developers. He specialises in helping to sell property faster. He has travelled extensively around the world as part of his work and together with his wife Helen.

 

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