In Trás-os-Montes, the region located in the northeast of the country, there is a peculiar tradition about to take place…
Every year Christmas approaches and we start thinking about the family members that are about to return home from abroad, eating the so awaited cod and roasted turkey, cosy nights by the fireplace and Christmas decorations. And outside the house there’s some kind of a “competition” going on...
From north to south there are several spots on the run for “Sparkly Destination” or “Santa’s Paradise” and other Christmassy titles. Picture everything from trains, to ice skating rinks, massive Christmas trees and even real reindeers!
There are many places worth visiting during this time of the year and here are some of the very best.
Autumn is a beautiful season for many reasons. The leaves turn brown and red, fall down and cover the pavements. Warm jumpers and fuzzy coats finally get to parade on the streets. The coffee and tea consumption increases and keeps us warm. And in the cities the air starts smelling of roasted chestnuts.
Late Summer and beginning of Autumn means it’s vindimas, what we Portuguese call the harvest season. In the main wine-making regions, such as Douro, Alentejo and Dão, producers and local workers are busy cutting the grapes from de vines, bunch by bunch. It’s hard work, but as we start preparing the delicious and world-known Portuguese wine it’s also time to celebrate!
Portugal is a very old country, actually the oldest nation in Europe, with a very rich heritage. Old traditions have been preserved and passed from generation to generation, and this is part of what makes us so unique. However, the fact that our roots date back to centuries ago doesn’t mean the country is not looking forward to the future. Actually, as you travel throughout Portugal you can witness a curious balance between the old buildings and traditional customs with modern buildings and contemporary initiatives.
It’s clear that the Portuguese are exploring new areas, being active in many cultural fields and permanently innovating.
From north to south, June is all about the summer celebrations, more commonly known as Santos (saints).
They have their origin in the summer solstice pagan rituals. This phenomenon, that creates the longest day with daylight and marks the beginning of summer, can be witnessed in the northern hemisphere around the 21st of June. Before Christ celebrations were thrown to praise the sun, the light and the fire and, at the same time, people asked the gods of fertility to ensure good crops for the following months.
Afterwards, with Cristianism spreading fast all over the country, the Church took over this celebrations and changed them to the 24th, the day St. John the Baptist was born. Later on, the 13th and the 29th were added to the religious festivities calendar to pay homage to St. Anthony and St. Peter. These are the three main saints celebrated in June and are considered the patron saints of the month.
Being Portugal a very catholic country, most of our traditions are strongly related to our religious heritage, particularly in the countryside. It is notorious the presence of religion in all fields, from architecture to gastronomy and, of course, our festivities. When it comes to celebrations the most important one is, without a doubt, Easter, as it represents Jesus ressurrection. Maybe that explains why we suffer in anticipation for so many days and then celebrate it with a bang!
The origin of this festivity dates back to ancient times, when people celebrated pagan gods and the mother nature. Many centuries later, the church recognised the Carnaval as a religious celebration, and it is now seen all around the world.
Carnaval, or entrudo, are the three days before Ash Wednesday. The main celebration is the “Fat Tuesday”, the last day for people to party and eat and drink too much. The word Carnaval has latin roots and means “farewell to meat”, as during Lent (the 40 days until Easter Sunday) devoted catholics give up their main pleasures, including meat.
In Portugal there is a big tradition when it comes to Carnaval festivities, since the Middle Age. Not only from north to south, but also in the islands of Azores and Madeira, Carnaval is celebrated with a bang! Portuguese people tend to believe “No Carnaval ninguém leva a mal”, a saying that means no one takes personally what is said and happens during this time of the year, being a time of excess and revelry.
If you are around in the pre-Len, do not miss the Carnaval celebrations we have picked, as they’ll probably be the highlight of your trip!
Changing temperatures have blurred the seasonal boundary and nowadays Portugal can be explored from north to south almost all year round. The weather plays an important role, but it is not the only reason why people have started venturing off the beaten path and looking for less known locations. Travellers want to discover and truly get to know the most authentic regions, to find well preserved locations and have real local experiences.
That's why we have tried to come up with the best places to visit in each month. With that said, some of them can and should be visited more than once, ideally in different times of the year, as the landscapes change abruptly and the feeling you get is very different.
Two subjects we don’t play with... Christmas in Portugal means quality time spent with the family: long meals, full tables and happy loud people.
Everyone is well aware we take food seriously, and the sweets we make for Christmas have been part of our traditions for generations. Every family claims to have the best recipe, and it is true. Every single one of them is to die for!
Here are a few (believe me, there are more!) of our favourites: