Holidays for the saints

Public holidays in Portugal consist of a mix of civil and religious days, observed at national, regional and municipal level. 

There are 14 national holidays, 13 of which are compulsory and 1 optional (Carnival, which is on a Tuesday in February).

The autonomous regions, municipalities and towns each have their own holidays and the latter two have their patron saints.

The town of Armação de Pêra was named after the apparatus that fishermen used to catch tuna in years gone by. Today, visitors to the area will see brightly-coloured fishing boats pulled up on the beach in front on the fishing cabins, towards the east end of the beach. Fishermen mending their nets are a common sight and, if up early enough, passersby can see them bringing in their catch.

The patron saint of Armação de Pêra is Saint Anthony. Anthony of Areias (which is Portuguese for sand) is also known as Anthony of Padua, where he died. He was a Franciscan monk who travelled widely evangelising and teaching, during the 12th century, across Portugal, Morocco, Sicily and the length of Italy. 

It is believed that the fishing village, at the time, chose Saint Anthony after hearing he went to preach in Rimini, Italy, where he was treated badly by heretics. He subsequently went to the shoreline, started preaching to the fish that collected in front of him in great numbers listening to his teaching. September 3 is the day Armação de Pêra celebrates its patron saint with both religious ceremonies and festivities for all the family.

Lagoa’s patron saint is Our Lady of Light. Ferragudo and Carvoeiro share the same saint but she is known as Our Lady of the Incarnation. Both these names refer to Mary, the mother of Jesus with September 8 the day of festivities in the municipality.

Mary’s statue is carried in a procession through the streets where people gather to watch and also enjoy all that stalls along the path of the procession have to offer.

São Gonçalo of Lagos, also known as Saint Gundisalvus, was born to a fisherman in Lagos at the harbour entrance. Visitors can see statues of Saint Gonçalo around the town together with an arch named after him, said to have been built where he was born.  

The saint concentrated on teaching and supporting the poor, in particular children and fishermen. He died in Torres Verdras in 1422 and is interred in the church of the former Augustinian monastary.

Lagos, another fishing port, celebrates its patron saint on October 27 with processions and festivities. There is a planned walk that visitors can follow throughout the year.

Formally a fishing village, Luz is now a firm favourite for family holidays. The town celebrates its patron saint, Our Lady of Light, on September 1 with a procession followed by much merriment.

Celebrations in Algarve are without doubt a family affair. Visitors can enjoy local gastronomy, watch processions and have all the fun of the fair.

Usually festivities will continue over a weekend and we suggest visitors always check to see if there is a local celebration they can visit – they are well worth enjoying.

For information on other festivals click here.

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