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12 June: the night of Santo António in Lisbon

At Eat at a Local’s, we can safely say that there is hardly any town or village in Portugal that doesn’t celebrate some sort of festivities dedicated to a certain catholic saint, during the month of June. Wether it is Santo António, Santo Pedro or Santo João: there is always a special night in which people gather in the streets for several hours partying and enjoying several typical dishes, drinks and popular music.

Santo António, Lisbon’s patron saint, is celebrated in Portugal’s capital on the 12 of June. The city dresses up with several thematic decorations which are placed on windows and across the buildings, and you can feel everywhere the smell of charcoal barbecues, be it pork meat or the famous fresh sardines, eaten directly over a bread or on a dish. All over the city, several beer stands quench the thirst of the thousands who party on the streets and to cheer them up even more, several stages are set where local artists play some of the biggest portuguese popular music hits. No matter what your usual music taste is, it’s almost impossible to resist dancing to these tunes wether alone or with someone standing closeby.  Tradition says that you should take home with you a small basil globe decorated with a popular verse, which is sold in many stands located in the streets of Lisbon on that particular night.

Photo by Ricardo – Flickr

But this celebration isn’t just about music, food and drinks. During the day the famous Santo António Weddings take place. Every year, on the same day, 16 couples have the opportunity to get married at Lisbon’s Cathedral (in case of a religious wedding) or at the Paços do Concelho (in case of the civil weddings). Each couple is entitled to invite 20 guests that may also participate on the ceremony and on the party that follows. To  be able to apply, at least one of the elements of the couple must be living in Lisbon. This initiative, which started in 1958, was originally intended to help people with lower incomes to get married. The Santo António Weddings are broadcasted live on the national TV Station.

On the same day there is also the big “Marchas Populares” Parade, along the Avenida da Liberdade, in the heart of Lisbon. For several months, each traditional neighbourhood composes their “anthem”, rehearses their dance and prepares their themed costumes for the big night of the 12 of June. The avenue fills ups with thousands of locals and tourists that watch the parade enthusiastically. In the end of the night, a winning neighbourghood is announced.

Have you had the opportunity to celebrate Santo António in Lisbon? Tell us how your night was on the comments below!


Cover photo: Mikel DLM Fotografía – Pixabay

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