Easter Celebrations in Portugal

Easter Celebrations in Portugal

As a country with deep Catholic roots, Easter is an important time of year in Portugal. Many different celebrations take place during this period including processions, festivals, live music and reenactments. Easter traditions vary across different regions of Portugal, and in some places, celebrations during Semana Santa attract visitors from not only all over Portugal, but from abroad as well. 

Celebrations around Portugal

Many cities and towns transform during Semana Santa. Streets are often decorated with colourful flowers, candles and altars and prepare to host different events. 

Braga holds some of the most famous easter celebrations. The activities here include the Procissão do Senhor Ecco Homo on Maundy Thursday, in which several participants portray important historical figures and others walk barefoot, dressed in black hooded cloaks, representing the “farricocos”. Other important celebrations that take place here are the Lord's Burial's Procession, on Good Friday, and the Resurrection Procession held on Easter Sunday.

Another city well known for its Semana Santa celebrations is Óbidos. The celebrations here start at the beginning of Lent, with the Procession of the Third Order of St. Francis, followed by the procession of Senhor dos Passos on Palm Sunday. 

One of this city’s most famous traditions is the Funeral Procession of the Lord, held during the night on Good Friday. This procession is lit only by torchlights, making it incredibly poignant and atmospheric. Re-enactments, masses, concerts and recitals are also held here during Holy Week.

Loulé, in the south of Portugal, holds Festa da Mãe Soberana on Easter Sunday. During this festival, eight men dressed in white, carry a statue of the Virgin Mary to the Church of São Francisco. This procession is known as the "Little Festival"  or Festa Pequena, with the "Big Festival", Festa Grande taking place two weeks later. There is an outdoor mass held at the end of Semana Santa, and the festival is finished with a display of fireworks.

Family Gatherings

On Easter Sunday in Portugal families gather for a meal, which typically includes roasted meat, ending the abstention from meat which occurs during Lent. Since meat is abstained from during each Friday of Lent, and often throughout the entire period, bacalhau is traditionally served on Good Friday.

A tradition that dates back centuries, is the giving of the Folar da Páscoa to godchildren by their godparents. Folar da Páscoa is a sweet bread cake, with a cross on top and often a boiled egg in the centre, representing rebirth and resurrection. Whilst this tradition isn’t as common now as it once was, the Folar da Páscoa is still very popular during the Easter period. Pão de ló is another cake that is very common to have at Easter, made from eggs, flour and sugar.

Like in many other western countries, the exchange of chocolate eggs is common in Portugal. You will often see almonds, particularly colourful sugar-coated almonds, being offered during this period and used to brighten up shop and market displays. 

If you are able to attend any of the celebrations in Portugal, many returning this year for the first time since 2019,  then have a fantastic time. We wish you all a very Happy Easter, however you choose to celebrate this time of year!