25th of April- a very special national holiday.

Whenever I go to Lisbon- and believe me when I say I go to Lisbon a lot! – there is a place I never miss: the Largo do Carmo. This is a quiet yet central square of Lisbon where some very special piece of recent History took place.

As you might have heard already, we had a closed, strict regime in Portugal from 1926 (although only officially from 1933) to 1974. António Salazar was the head of government until 1969 and Marcello Caetano, his successor until 1974.

In that year it all ended finally, not in a blood bath as you might imagine, but in rather a joyful way, with a “shower” of carnations, grabbed from the street flower vendors, instead (you can read more about it here.

It’s been 39 years but we still celebrate this date and what better place to start celebrating than the very place where it all happened? If you are around Lisbon on this date you must make your way to Largo do Carmo and other nearby places and see for yourself.

We will have music playing, speeches from some important political leaders, poem reading in the open air from tonight.  In the afternoon a parade will be held in Avenida da Liberdade down to Rossio where there will be some Portuguese music concerts.

You won’t need to go hungry nor thirsty as there will be many stands selling cold drinks and traditional nibbles. Cafés in the center will be open all day. Will you want to miss all the revelry and joy of yet another year in freedom?

International Day of Monuments and Sites

     There are good reasons to celebrate today’s date around the world. It is a very dear day to us here at Lisbon Stories: today is April the 18th the international day for monuments and sites. And you are more than welcome to come and join the party!

     Why is today so special? Well for a start, it is an official international celebration approved by the UNESCO in 1983, so actually today is its 30th anniversary. Many places around the world hold special events in Museums and other important sites today and during the next week and Portugal is no exception.

     Every year there is a different theme and the theme for 2013 is the Heritage of Education. More than 490 activities in 290 different monuments and sites were planned for today throughout Portugal and most of them include some very different tours from what we are used to.

     From food tastings and ancient dance shows in the castle of Saint George in Lisbon to a special guided tour to the painted tiles of Pena Palace in Sintra, there is a bit of everything to please everyone’s taste.

     By the way, did you know that the St. Jerome Monastery is the most visited monument in Portugal? Well, I dare you to come and figure out why. If not before, maybe you can come just in time for next year’s celebration of the international day for monuments and sites!

We want a Fernando Pessoa doodle

     I’ve just received this email from Casa Fernando Pessoa and couldn’t resist to share it:

     ”On June 13th 2013, Portugal and the Portuguese language (spoken by more than 280 million people all over the world), will be celebrating the 125th birthday of Fernando Pessoa, our most universal writer and poet. Internationally revered by readers, Fernando Pessoa was the first writer ever known to have dispersed his creativity through tens of literary personas and the genius creation of the concept of three main heteronyms, whom he embodied but at the same time giving them a life, a biography and a style all of their own. Writing in Portuguese and English all his life, Fernando Pessoa, through himself and his own others, was the epitome of Portuguese literary innovation breakthrough, on the XX century. His legacy is now more alive than ever, having been translated and published in more than 40 languages.

     With all this in mind, we thank your doodle team, in advance, to take his upcoming 125th birthday under serious consideration.”

      Copy / paste this text and email it to [email protected]oogle.com

“To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that makes you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you endeavour.”

Easter treats

     Apart from Christmas, Easter is probably the most popular family celebration in Portugal.  Catholic traditions go hand in hand with family reunions and most of the time, are just an excuse to get together and, guess what, eat!

     Generally speaking, on holy Friday no meat is eaten. Cod fish- cooked in one of a million ways- is once again, the king of the table. Grilled fish or octopus are also common choices.

      Easter is also a celebration of the relationship between godparents and their godchildren. They exchange some gifts, but mostly sugar coated almonds and chocolate eggs. Another thing that can’t miss is the sweet bread stuffed with boiled eggs (shells still on!) we call Folar.

      Easter Sunday is a family day and no one wants to go anywhere far from the wonderfully laid tables in our family homes. Lamb or Kid either in stew or oven roasted are the most common main dish, but in this point, families definitely rule over tradition and one can find a bit of everything to please everyone’s taste.

      As for me, well I have to tell you: I love them all! No Easter holiday would be complete with some comfort food and family around. Check the “Folar” below:

Hey, it’s Carnival!

     Today is Carnival day and from the North to the South all the country is celebrating… and probably masquerading too.

     Carnival is a great opportunity to do some tricks and jokes, masquerade and have fun during five consecutive days. Is it a bank holiday? Theoretically no, but in reality it almost is. At home it’s time to make or buy costumes. Most inspiration comes from movies and fairy-tale characters, professions, other cultures and so on.

     Traditions vary throughout the country but happiness and a care-free spirit are something they all have in common. After all, “É Carnaval, ninguém leva a mal”. It’s Carnival, no one can get offended, is probably the most heard sentence.

     Recently some towns (like Ovar, Sesimbra or Mealhada) got inspired by the Brazilian Carnival and now boast Samba dancers, with colorful and short costumes. Others, like Torres Vedras preserve the tradition. Here most men dress like women and the Allegorical cars used during the parade satirize politicians and important situations.

     Tomorrow night it will be time to “bury Mr. Carnival” and burn a scarecrow, symbolizing the end of festivities. During old Catholic times this would mean the culminate of celebrations and the beginning of Lents fast.

Santo António – 13th of June, the day to be in Lisbon

The 13th of June is the day to be in Lisbon… just like the 12th of June is the night to be around. Lisbon celebrates St. Anthony, the unofficial Patron Saint and it seems like everything happens that day and night.

Everything starts during the afternoon, with the “Casamentos de Santo António”. This is an old tradition, organized by the town hall and other private sponsors. It’s a group wedding, that this year married 16 young couples, who can apply and be chosen if they have all the required conditions. During the dictatorship, girls would need to be seen by a doctor to certify that they were still virgins. Today they can choose between the religious ceremony in the Cathedral and the civil one in the City Museum.

Later, traffic is cut in “Avenida da Liberdade”, the main avenue of Lisbon, to prepare it for the “Marchas Populares”. Marchas are a sort of Carnival parade organized by the most traditional neighborhoods of Lisbon, on which they have to create their own costume, lyrics, song and dance. They all perform in “Avenida da Liberdade” in front of a jury and the curious eyes of the inhabitants who can’t miss the parade.”Marchas Populares” celebrated 80 years this year and the winner was “Alto do Pina”, for the 2nd year on a row.

After this parade everyone heads to the “Arraiais”, a sort of fair on which the whole historical center is transformed. Everywhere, in the streets and squares of Alfama, Castelo and Bica, there are small improvised bars, counters, stages where small bands perform live and everyone drinks and dances until the sun shines again. Some areas get a little bit too crowded but the nice thing is to watch young and old people, rich and poor, all dancing together popular songs which lyrics everyone knows. Forget a bar or a disco… this night is spent outside, dancing in the street where you normally just sit in traffic.

Since this night is all about St Anthony and he is the “wedding maker”, boys are supposed to offer their girlfriends a “manjerico” – small basil, with a little paper flower, holding a love poem. A lovely tradition that somehow survives to the modern times.

Share your thoughts with me and this post with your friends!

Feliz Dia da Espiga

 Today we celebrate the “Dia da Espiga”, which can be translated into something like “Thursday of cereal ears”.

     This day tradition says that everyone should go for a walk through the fields, in the early morning, and grab daisies, poppies, few different cereal ears, a small olive branch and rosemary.

     The flowers generally stand for joy, being daisies for gold and poppies for love; cereal ears represent the bread; the olive branch remembers both peace and the light, as long time ago the only illumination existing in the houses would be olive oil lamps; and finally, the rosemary is supposed to bring health and strength.

     The branch must be kept at home, without water, and must be kept from one year to the other, to bring all these good things to the house. The tradition is old and its origins a bit unknown. Some say that it comes from an old Christian tradition, of blessing the first fruit of each harvest, but other say that it’s even older, coming from the pagan cults to the goddess Flora, which also used to happen in this time of the year.

     To me, this tradition remembers me of my childhood and puts a smile on my face. I still remember when I used to go for a walk on the countryside with my mother, sister, my dogs and some little friends and grab all these flowers and cereal ears. Nowadays there are many people selling these branches in the streets of the big cities, but obviously it isn’t the same thing than grabbing it yourself.

Feliz Dia da Espiga

Why was it a holiday on Wednesday, April the 25th?

This was a really busy week at Lisbon Stories and I’m really ashamed of writing this post only today! Anyway, I’d be even more ashamed of not talking about this at all, so, here it goes: Why was it a holiday on Wednesday?

April the 25th, of 1974, was the day of the Red Carnation Revolution. Until then Portugal was living in a fascist dictatorship, first led by Oliveira Salazar and then leaded by Marcelo Caetano when Salazar deceased in 1969.

During this time there was no freedom of speech. Everyone was afraid of talking as there could be members of the political police (“PIDE”) everywhere; newspapers, books radio and so would need to be approved by the censure police before they could be published; all those who were communists or simply against the regime could be arrested or tortured; and I could keep on with this list forever!

Finally in 1974 the “Armed Forces Movement” (MFA) organised a coup to put an end to the dictatorship. The crucial point happen in front of Carmo police station, when the MFA stood in front of the building where the government was. The name “Red Carnation Revolution” comes from the fact that the soldiers put red carnations in their guns to show that they didn’t want to shoot. Actually, they managed to put an end to 41 years of fascist dictatorship without making one single death. Isn’t that something?!

All the political prisoners were set free right away and the war with the colonies, which wanted the independence, finished right away too. Nowadays, every year, on the 25th of April, there’s a parade that crosses a major avenue in Lisbon. Everyone carries red carnations and sing revolutionary songs and slogans to remember the day of the revolution.