Festivals in Lisbon, Portugal by Lucy Richmond

Prior to my arrival in Lisbon, Portugal, people from the CIE in Lisbon were excitedly telling my study abroad group how we would be there for one of the biggest festivals of the year. This festival was called the Feast of Saint Anthony Festival. Saint Anthony is known as the matchmaker saint in Portugal, whom women pray to for a husband and everyone prays to for anything they want or need. I was lucky enough to attend this festival in the Alfama District of Lisbon, where St. Anthony was born over 800 years ago, and it was such a fantastic experience. Earlier in the evening of June 12th, there were hundreds of vendors selling potted basil plants with paper carnations attached, which men are known to buy for their loved ones and write sweet notes on. I learned that if you want to smell the basil, you must place your hand on the plant lightly and then smell your hand because it is believed that if you sniff the plant, you will take away all of its wonderful aromas and the vendors will be furious with you. At night, there were parties throughout the streets, called arraiais, which had hundreds of stands selling sardines, pork sandwiches called bifanas, Portuguese sausage called Chouriço, and drinks. The city was decorated so brightly and beautifully, which I am sure took weeks and many people to prepare. Music was played throughout the city on speakers from a live performance a couple of streets over, and the smell of grilled sardines filled the air. The actual holiday of St. Anthony’s day is June 13th, so everyone takes advantage of that and parties all night the night before, so they can use the next day to rest. Because of COVID-19, they had not had the St. Anthony festival for the past two years, so this year, the festival was bigger and better than ever. It was a rumor that the sardines were larger and superior to previous years because they had not been eaten nearly as much and had much more time to breed. This experience was such a cultural immersion, and I am so happy that it was near the beginning of my study abroad trip as it made me feel so welcome in Portugal.

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