Religious customs in this Roman Catholic country still include, in the north, the burning of the yule log in the atrium of the village church at Christmas, so that the people of the village may warm themselves.
“As Janeiras” is a traditional celebration in Portugal which clearly had a magical component: they were blessings sung and thus bestowed upon family, friends and neighbours, just like the New Year’s gifts of earlier times. Groups of people, mainly young people, dressed in traditional and regional costumes, every year go from door to door singing New Year traditional carols and wishing a happy New Year to the residents and neighbours. In return, it is supposed to be offered with Christmas cakes, chocolates, fruit, chestnuts, nuts, etc . This celebration takes place between the 1st and 6th of January.
Saint Anthony’s day (Dia de Santo António) celebrates the patron of Lisbon on the 13th of June. On its eve, Lisbon dresses up to honour its saint patron with popular festivities like Marchas Populares (popular street parade) and the wedding event Noivas de Santo António. Each year, a traditional parade of groups of dancers from the different Lisbon districts takes place. Marchers look magnificent on their handmade impressive costumes, dancing cheer and elaborated choreographies to the sound of their marchas. People are also used to give and receive gifts of sweet basil to bring them good luck and fortune
Besides, most of the month of June is marked by several festivities taking place in many regions all over the country, with the purpose of celebrating the Santos Populares (the Popular Saints, that is, Saint Anthony together with Saint John – the patron of Oporto – and Saint Peter).
In smaller towns and villages, religious festivities and cultural activities may revolve around local folklore, with musical groups performing traditional dance and song. Local festivities are very popular during the summer season in all kinds of localities ranging from villages to cities, as well as beach holidays, mainly from July to September.
During summer, the country 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. Each region 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.
Saint Martins’ Day (Dia de São Martinho) is celebrated in many parts of the World on the 11th of November. It is a day honouring Martin of Tours, a 4th century Roman soldier who is known for a certain miracle. Over the centuries, St. Martins Day, in late autumn, has evolved into a celebration of the harvest. In Portugal, St. Martins Day has become a day to celebrate the maturation of the year’s wine production. On this day in many Portuguese communities, a large party is held. A bonfire is built, recently-harvested chestnuts are roasted, and the first wines of the season are tasted. This celebration festival is known as magusto (believed to come from the Latin magnus ustus or “great fire”).
The annual killing of the pig is one of the most important ceremonies in rural households is the annual killing and preserving of the pig. This event occurs in late December or January and usually takes two days, since it involves making sausage, smoking ham (presunto) and salting several other parts of the animal, including the belly (toucinho). The noon meal on the first day is called sarrabulho and consists of rice, innards and the blood of the pig.
Grape is considered a symbol of abundance and fireside comfort. It is also referred to the national New Year tradition: at midnight a person should eat 12 grape berries with every stroke and, simultaneously, make a wish for every month of the year.