Portugal: Holidays

Figure 1.--The main religion in Portugal is Roman Catholicism. The First Republic (1910-26) adopted anticlerical policies. This Portuguese photo was taken in Mora, Alentejo region, during the mid-1910s. It shows a group of children after the Resurection Mass (Easter). They are going through the streets ringing little bells. Most of the children wear stocking caps, but we see other caps and one boy wears a broad-brimmed hat. The boys wear long pants and most are barefoot. Two boys wears smocks, one with long stockings and shoes and the other is barefoot. Boys might wear smocks for school, but wearing smocks for play was less common and this of course was not a school day. The boys with shoes probably belong to more affluent (or less poor) families. Presumably the boys are wearing their best clothing for Christmas. Nowadays in the Roman Catholich liturgy the Ressurection Mass is celebrated at night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. At the time, instead, the Mass was celebrated on Saturday. The Catholic tradition is that bells don't ring on Good Friday and be silent till Resurrection Mass. Put your cursor on the image to see the rest of the group.

Portugal has a substantial mumber of national and local holidays. It temporarily revoked four out of concern over productivity. Many of the national holidays are religious holidays. The main religion is the Roman Catholicism. The country since medeval times has been strongly influenced by the Catholic Church. The First Republic (1910-26) launched anti-clerical policies. Despite the fact that the country has become highly secularized like the rest of Westen Europe, religious celebration tend to dominate the holidays celebrated.

New Year's Day -- Ano Novo (January 1)

Carnival -- Carnaval (Variable)

This annual festival that ends on Shrove Tuesday (called Fat Tuesday in Madeira - Terça-feira Gorda in Portuguese). The day before Ash Wednesday (first day of Lent). This is an optional holiday, although it is usually observed. 47 days before Easter Sunday.

Good Friday -- Sexta-feira Santa (Variable)

Friday before Easter Sunday.

Easter -- Domingo de Páscoa (Variable)

Portugal has several religious holidays. Easter is one of the most important. Children after the Ressurection Mass (Easter) go throughout the streets ringing little bells.

Freedom Day -- Dia da Liberdade (April 25)

This holiday celebrates the left-wing military 1974 coup d'état that ended the Estado Novo government established by long ruling dictator António de Oliveira Salazar (1932-68). The military leaders then established the Portuguese Third Republic.

Labor Day -- Dia do Trabalhador (May 1)

Portuguese Labor Day is a May Day celebration entirely oriented toward sicalist/communist demonstrations. MNone of the soruingrituals we see in some other countries.

Corpus Christi Feast -- Corpo de Deus (Variable)

It is held on a Thursday with varying dates, 60 days after Easter Sunday. It is a religion holiday.

Azores Day -- Dia dos Açores (June 1)

It is only celebrated in the Azores, an Atlantic oceanic archepelago.

Portugal Day -- Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas (June 10)

This is Portugal's National Day.

Madeira Day -- Dia da Madeira (July 1)

Only celebrated in Madeira another archepelago. This one in the Mediterranean.

Assumption -- Assunção de Nossa Senhora (August 15)

This is another religious holiday. It is based on the Biblical account Mary's assent to heaven.

Republic Day -- Implantação da República (October 5)

This is a celebration of the end of Monarchy and the beginning of the Portuguese Republic.

All Saints Day -- Dia de Todos-os-Santos (November 1)

All Saints Day is another Catholic religious holiday celebrated im many other countries, especiall Catholic countries. It celecrates all the Catholic saints, meaning those who have ahieved the beatific vision in heaven. Attention is given to those who have no special feast days of their own. It is allso a day to honor the dead with religious celebrations and visits to the cemetery. The 1st of November is also remember in Portugal as the day Lisbon was struck by the the devestating Great Earthquake of 1755, which left the city in ruins. Lisbon was set ablaze and tsunamis rushed upon the shore into the city. The earthquake struck mid-morning when many families attended the high religious holiday, inside the city churches, where many thousands were killed. One feature of All saints Day is 'Pão-por-Deus' (Bread for God’s sake). In some areas of the country children keep the Pão-por-Deus tradition by going door-to-door in the morning asking for bread. nowadays some cookies. It ia kind of Portuguese version of Trick or Treat ans occurs at the same time. We have a photo taken in 1960s in Odivelas, near Lisbon. All Saints Day is a public holiday in Poerugal. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Restoration of Independence -- Restauração da Independência (December 1)

This holiday celebrates the end of the Philippine Dynasty (1580–1640) and the end of Spanish domination.

Immaculate Conception -- Imaculada Conceição (December 8)

Celebrating the Roman Catholic belief that the conception of the Virgin Mary without any stain of original sin.

Christmas Day -- Natal (December 25)

This is Portuguese Christmas anotger important reigious holiday, now with mny secular trapings and a real favorite with children. Christmas is celebrated in much the same way in Portugal as it is in Spain. The Portugese enjoy an additional feast--consoada. They eat in the early morning hours of Christmas Day. They set extra places at the table for the souls of the dead--alminhas a penar. The tradition is to give a gift of food to the family members that have passed away hope that this will ensure good fortunes in the New Year. In some areas crumbs are left on the hearth for these souls, a custom that dreives from the ancient practice of entrusting the seeds to the dead in hopes that they will provide a bountiful harvest. They place a Christmas log on the hearth--or cepo de Natal. Traditionally it is an oak log which burns through the day as the family enjoys a leasurly consoda. Portuguese children look forward to the Three Wise Men to being their Christmas gifts. The children put the shoes near the fireplace rather like American children hang their stockings. Here we see the tradition if ringing bills (figure 1). Nowadays in the Roman Catholich liturgy the Ressurection Mass is celebrated at night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. At the time, instead, the Mass was celebrated on Saturday. The Catholic tradition is that bells don't ring on Good Friday and be silent till Resurrection Mass.

Boxing Day -- Segunda Oitava (December 26)

Segunda Oitava means second octave. We are not sure about its origins. It is part of Madeira's centuries old Christmas celebrations which has been recognized as bank holiday by the Regional Government of Madeira.


Europe went through a major economic crisis centere in the socialist-riented countries on the southern perifery which were going bankrupt (2011-14). Greece was the poster child for the crisis, but Portugal was one of the countries in the worst shape and with a weak economy. Europe eventually bailed them out without solving the fundamental problems of over spending and failure to promote capitalism. To qualify for the bailout, Portugal had to agree to austerity measures, some of which was crafted by each country. The Coalition government of Pedro Passos Coelho revoked four holidays (2012). There were two cancelled civilian holidays (Republic Day and Restoration of Independence) and two religious holidays (Corpus Christi and All Saints Day). The cancellation went into effect (2013). The idea was to incease productivity as part of the 2011–14 Troika bailout to Portugal. The holiday measure was not requested by the Memorandum of Understanding. The idea was to reconsider the holiday measure, esoecually the religious holiday in 2018. The António Costa Govrnment reponding to public opinion did not wait until 2018. They restored all four of the holidays (2016).


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Created: 10:41 PM 9/6/2018
Last updated: 10:41 PM 9/6/2018