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Carnival In Portugal!

There is no doubt that being in Portugal for Carnival (Carnaval) is one of the most memorable times to be there, the whole country seems to explode into a big bundle of colour, smiles and music, excitement fills the air even in the weeks leading up to the big celebration.

Many cities and towns come to a complete stop while long parades of adults and children in fancy dress, and beautifully decorated carnival floats glitter their way through the streets. The main public holiday is 13th February this year (2018) though in most areas the processions start the weekend before.  We saw a great procession of school children dressed as bombeiros, artists and cats on 8th February in Quarteira and Oliveira do Hospital has a 20 year old tradition of gathering all the schools in the local area in a big Carnival parade (Desfile de Carnaval), this year, on 9th February, more than 1400 sudents paraded through the streets of the city filling it with colour, music and joy.

Oliveira do Hospital Parade

Photo credit: Câmara Municipal de Oliveira do Hospital

Portugal isn’t alone in its celebrations at this time of year, many people will know of the famous Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and over the years the celebration has spread to France, Spain and many other catholic countries. It is said that the Carnival tradition started Italy many centuries ago with worshipers holding a costume festival the night before the first day of Lent. Carnival now is one of the largest of all festivals in Portugal, starting just before Lent, signalling of the end of the winter and the giving up of meat, (Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during this period, hence the reason the festival is traditionally named Carnevale – ‘to put away the meat’) this said it’s not an especially religious festival now in Portugal and celebrations continue well past Ash Wednesday when most religious carnivals would end, it can (and often does) last weeks! Portugal loves to party!

Oliveira do Hospital Parade

This is a time when as a visitor or newcomer to Portugal you can truly see the country at its very best, food stalls line the streets, music plays, people dance. It’s a great time to get out and meet local people, practice your Portuguese and form new friendships!

You could go to Parque Nações for “entrudo”, the final night of carnival on Feb 13th, Funchal on Madeira island between 7-14th Feb and hundreds of other local processions near you!


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