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Easter in Portugal


Portugal, the westernmost edge of continental Europe, is a land of strong religious heritage and tradition, as is clear from the many unique local customs and celebrations that are repeated annually across the country at Eastertide.


During Holy Week, thousands of pilgrims travel to Braga, in the northwest, home of the Portuguese Archbishopric.

The town celebrates with a series of nocturnal processions, including the Maundy Thursday Ecce Homo procession, know locally as Senhor da Cana Verde – literally, the Lord of the Green Cane – and the Good Friday Burial Procession of Our Lord, led by the farricocos (barefoot penitents in hooded tunics).

In Porto – the city which lends its name to the whole country and also to the fortified wine – in addition to Easter-egg workshops, readings of texts and traditional processions and performances, there are also concerts held around the city, offering an activity where those without religious convictions can also join in the celebrations.

On Good Friday, in the village of Sapiaos, in the far north, the residents recreate the Way of the Cross. Devotees follow the trail on foot, stopping at each of the Stations to sing and read texts from the Biblical story of the Passion of Christ.

On the Atlantic the coast, the medieval walled city of Obidos is like an open air museum. Its narrow streets and white-washed houses provide a perfect backdrop for Holy Week processions and re-enactments.

Records of Holy Week celebrations in the town go back to the seventeenth century, and today include masses, processions, concerts, conferences, activities for children, exhibitions and recitals. Highlights include two torchlight processions with religious statues.

The Fogareus procession is the awe-inspiring highlight of the Easter celebrations in the picturesque inland village of Sardoal.

Fogareus is Portuguese for bonfires, and for the procession, all the lights are switched off and the streets are simply illuminated by thousands of candles, lanterns and torches carried by penitents.

As well as an interesting programme of cultural activities and events, the Easter celebrations in the town of Castelo de Vide intermingle Christian and Jewish culture and tradition, in keeping with the town's historical roots.

Highlights include the Easter Saturday Blessing of the Lambs, where shepherds bring their flocks into the town centre to be blessed before being sold, the Sunday Resurrection Procession with its parade of local craft guilds and associations, and the Easter Monday holiday that commemorates Our Lady of Light.

The streets of Sao Bras de Alportel, some ten miles inland from the Algarve coast, are filled with flowers and flaming torches on Easter Sunday to greet the procession of the Resurrection. Regional desserts and sweets are a speciality of the season and can be sampled along Sao Sebastiao, located in the centre of the city.

In Monchique, a pretty market town in the wooded mountain range to the north west of the Algarve, the Thursday night procession fills the streets with the warm light of candles.

On Friday the Burial of Christ procession is celebrated and on Easter Sunday there's the Procession of the Resurrection.

As in other parts of Portugal, the neighbours decorate the facades of the houses along the procession routes by hanging colourful quilts and shawls from the windows and balconies.