Portuguese Easter traditions
Portuguese Easter traditions are unique and reflect the religious devotion of the majority of the country’s people that follows Catholicism.
Portugal is a Catholic country therefore Easter is lived with enthusiasm and devotion.
Year after year the strong religious heritage and tradition is honoured and followed through unique local celebrations that make this a perfect time to visit the country.
Throughout the country several processions take place during the Holy Week or Semana Santa as we name it in Portugal.
Some of the Easter celebrations are truly iconic, like the ones held in Braga, a magnificent Northern Portuguese city. Here occur a series of nocturnal processions including the Maundy Thursday Ecce Homo, also named locally as Senhor da Cana Verde (the Lord of the Green Cane) and the peculiar Good Friday Burial Procession of Our Lord, led by barefoot penitents in hooded tunics called Farricocos.
Photo by JAIRO BD
The medieval city of Obidos, located just 2 hours away from Lisbon, is the perfect scenery for the Holy Week celebrations with its narrow streets and white houses. The two torchlight processions with religious statues are the main highlights of this season.
In the Santarém district, in center Portugal, the charming village of Sardoal is the place to go during Easter due to the Foagareus procession as during the procession all the village lights are switched off and the streets are illuminated just by thousands of candles, lanterns and torches carried by the penitents.
Further south in the Castelo de Vide region, Easter celebrations have a Jewish origin. Here it takes place the Easter Saturday Blessing of the Lambs, when local shepherds invade the town center to have their flocks blessed. At night is held a Pascal Vigil where people ask for forgiveness resembling the Jewish Yom Kippur. At the end of the mass takes place the Procession of Alleluia that is characterized by the cowbells brought by the participants.
In the Algarve, namely in Sao Bras de Alportel, the streets are decorated with flowers and torches on Easter Sunday to welcome the procession of the Resurrection. Besides, this is a great opportunity to enjoy regional delicacies typical of this season as they are sampled along in the city centre.
However, among the Portuguese Easter traditions my favourite is the Compasso, as it recalls me my childhood. At my father’s hometown near Viseu, as in the majority of the northern villages, the priest goes from house to house blessing them and everyone who lives in them. Another special moment of childhood Easter memories was when my grandparents offered me a gift following another Portuguese tradition.
Photo by Débora Figueiredo