Traditions and customs of Portugal

What traditions and customs are there in Portugal?

To the west in the Iberian Peninsula, the customs and traditions of Portugal.


Food in daily life

Cuisine varies by region. The north is known for caldo verde, a kale and potato soup usually flavored with a slice of chouriço (spicy sausage). Grilled sardines are also important.

The traditional bread, especially in the Northwest, is broa, a grainy cornbread with a thick crust. In Minho, the traditional wine is vinho verde, a young wine made from grapes grown in arbors that often serve as property markers.

In the northeast region of Trás-os-Montes, fresh and cured pork is used in a number of dishes. A stew of mixed meats and vegetables called cozida à portuguesa originates from this region and has become a national dish.

In central Portugal, cheeses are more common due to grazing in the Serra da Estrela and fish (including octupus, squid and eel) are abundant. In the south, the most popular soup is a form of gazpacho with bread and smoked pork. A stew of pork and clams cooked in a cataplana is the regional dish of the Alentejo. Olive oil (“azeite”) is used throughout the country.

Cod has been a national dish since the 15th century, when the Portuguese began fishing off the coast of Newfoundland. Pastéis de bacalhau (cod fish croquettes) are a very popular appetizer.

An important seasoning is cumin; Equally important is the piri-piri, a hot red chili often used to season grilled chicken. Cinnamon is a common flavoring for desserts, such as the traditional rice pudding (“arroz doce”).

Port, a fortified wine produced in the Alto Douro region, is one of the main exports. In rural homes, on ceremonial occasions, the port is offered to celebrated guests, including the parish priest.

Lunch (“o almoço”) is served at half past twelve, and dinner (“o jantar”) at eight in the evening. Breakfast (“o pequeno almoço”) is continental in style. In rural regions, it was traditional for men to stop at the local cafe before heading out into the fields for their pinga (a shot of brandy) to kill or bicho (kill the beast).

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

One of the most important ceremonies in rural households is the annual slaughter and preservation of the pig. This event occurs in late December or January and usually lasts two days, as it involves the making of sausages, the smoking of ham (‘presumed’) and the salting of various other parts of the pigs, including the belly (‘toucinho’).). The midday meal of the first day is called sarrabulho and consists of rice, intestines and pig blood.

The family’s traditional meal on Christmas Eve is cod with molho verde (a green sauce made with virgin olive oil), cabbage (“couve”) and boiled potatoes. On Twelfth Night, a bolo rei (kingly bread) is served, often with a lucky coin. On the occasion of the village festival, some families roast a kid.

Cafes are places to meet friends, discuss business and study. Various styles of coffee are served, each with a special label.


Although Portugal has become more informal in its rules of etiquette, terms of courtesy are still used. People with education still address people with phrases such as Senhor Doutor (Mr. Dr.) and an upper class and/or educated women still have the title of Doña, often accompanied by a given name as in “Doña María”. ».

Like Spanish, Portuguese makes a distinction between the more formal and courteous “o senhor/a senhora” and the more informal and intimate tu… Strangers generally greet each other with a handshake.

In more informal settings, men who meet each other hug and women greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks. The upper and middle class urban Portuguese dress quite formally and there is a strong sense of propriety regarding appropriate public dress.


Religious beliefs

Most of the citizens are Catholic, nominally if not in practice. Portugal has experienced waves of political anticlericalism throughout its history.

Under Salazar, Portugal experienced a religious revival and the position of the local priest in the villages was greatly improved. Only after 1974 was this position questioned, and in recent years there has been a decline in the number of clerics.

Religiosity is generally weakest in Lisbon and the south and strongest in the center, the north and the islands. People develop personal relationships with particular saints.

Magical practices, witchcraft (“feitiço”), sorcery (“bruxaria”) associated with notions of illness and healing, and notions of envy (“inveja”) invoking the evil eye remain part of the belief system of a lot of people.

Rituals and sacred places

The life of the town is marked by the celebrations in honor of the saints and the Virgin Mary. Romerías (pilgrimages) to the regions

Shrines are a central feature of religious practice, especially in the north. Villagers also hold an annual festival (usually to honor the patron saint) that includes a procession and combines sacred and secular elements.

The famous hermitage of Fátima is located in the province of Ribatejos, northeast of Lisbon, where the Virgin of the Rosary appeared to three little shepherds in 1917. In 1932, the devotion to Our Lady of Fátima was approved by the Catholic Church and became built a great basilica.

Fatima is now an international pilgrimage site. Pilgrims often trek from the remotest corners of northern Portugal for the May and October celebrations. Among the other important pilgrimage sites are Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga and Nossa Senhora dos Remedios in Lamego.

Death and the afterlife

Death is a fundamental part of village life. The church rings the bells to send the message that a neighbor (“vizinho”) has passed away.

In some areas, the doors and gates of the dead person’s house are thrown open to allow anyone to enter and relatives begin to cry around a body prepared to be seen. Burial is in local cemeteries, and family graves are well cared for. Each village has several funerary societies (cofradías).

All Saints’ Day is an occasion to revere those who have passed away. The duel is signified by the use of black; a widow will generally wear black for the rest of her life, while other relatives mourn for varying lengths of time.

Portugal has several death cults. Such beliefs are not limited to rural areas; in the cities there is a network of spirit mediums who claim to contact the dead.

Secular celebrations

April 25 is an official holiday since 1974, commemorating the overthrow of the Estado Novo by the Armed Forces Movement. On May 1, the Portuguese celebrate Labor Day. Portugal Day (June 10) commemorates the death of Luis de Camões, the national epic poet.

On August 15, the Assumption of the Virgin is celebrated. October 5 is the Day of the Republic, which commemorates the fall of the monarchy in 1910. Since 1974 it has gained greater importance as a national holiday, while May 28, a commemorative day with military parades that during the Salazar regime honored the military coup of 1926, is no longer a day of national celebration.

The arts and humanities


The most famous work of national literature is Os Lusíadas, an epic poem about the voyage of Vasco da Gama by Luís de Camões (1525?-1579?). Of importance during the 17th century, when Portugal regained autonomy, were the Portuguese Letters written by Sister Mariana Alcoforada.

In the early 1970s, Alcoforada’s work stimulated the Novas Cartas Portuguesas, a declaration of feminism written by the so-called three Marías. The greatest period in literature was the 19th century, when Julio Dinis, Camilo Castelo Branco, and José María Eça de Queirós used a social realist and sometimes satirical style to write about class relations, family, heritage, and religion.

Realism was revived during the 20th century with the tales of rural life by Manuel Torga, the novels of Aquilino Ribeiro, and epic tales such as Emigrantes de Ferreira de Castro. Perhaps the greatest Portuguese modernist is Fernando Pessoa. Modernism attacked the values ​​of the middle classes of the liberal period. Contemporary realists include Lobo Antunes and José Saramago, Nobel Prize winner in 1998.

Graphic arts

The best forms of art are architecture and pottery. The painting has not been particularly important. Folk arts are well developed and artisans are found throughout the country. The rugs made in Arraiolas are internationally known.

Women from the north and from the island of Madeira produce embroidered items that are sold to tourists. Pottery varies in style according to geographic region. Artistic expression is also evident in items produced for the decoration of floats carried in religious processions and in filigree jewelry made in the Porto region, which is also worn at festivals.

Performing arts

Fado is one of the most important performing traditions. Folk ranches are being revitalized, supported by the tourist industry. The dancers dress in traditional regional costumes and present dances that have historical and regional origins. Bullfighting is also an important performing art.

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