Dia de Santo António

A religious festival that brings a whole new meaning to Basil
Many public holidays in Portugal are Saint’s days. These days are just a tad different from what you might imagine a religious public holiday to be like. Saint’s days in Portugal are full of fun, dancing, music and excess. One of the most important Saint’s days in Portugal is Saint Anthony´s Day  (or, in Portuguese, Dia de Santo António), which is celebrated in Lisbon on June 13th.On this day the entire city comes to a grinding halt.The alfacinhas* (the lettuces) are making a slow recovery from the festivities of the night before when the city dances,has fun,sniffs manjerico eats sardines, and drinks copious amounts of sangria.As well as being the patron saint of Lisbon, Saint Anthony is also known as the matchmaker so this enormous street party cannot be dissociated from love and romance. On the 12th June as an annual custom Lisbon Cathedral plays host to St Antonio’s Weddings. Lisbon City Council offers 16 couples from modest backgrounds all the preparations, such as the dress and other clothing, wedding rings, marriage ceremony, and even the honeymoon. And  this, blessed by St Antonio. Another tradition is to present your lover with a manjerico (sweet basil) plant and an (often humorous) poem during this time. It is known as Saint Anthony´s manjerico: the lovers flower.The streets are decorated in bright colours and are full of people partying and dancing into the night.Bush basils (manjericos ) are found for sale on every corner. The tradition is that boyfriends should offer a manjerico to their girlfriends. These come with a little flag with a verse on it, a little like fortune cookies, or in Italy Baci chocolates. 
These potted bushes smell like basil but you should first touch it and then smell your hand, otherwise it may die!!!! In terms of gastronomy,the tradition is to eat sardines, red peppers, caldo verde, and bread.

A popular verse written by Fernando Pessoa that you might find attached to a pot of manjerico

O vaso do manjerico The pot of basil
O vaso do manjerico The pot of basil
Caiu da janela abaixo. Fell from the window below.
Vai buscá-lo, que aqui fico Go get it, get it here
A ver se sem ti te acho. See if you think without you.

Legend says that St Antonio gave dowries to poor girls so they could get married. Based on this legend, many others were invented. This one has to be my favourite … There was a girl who was tired of praying for the man of her life without success. One day she decided to throw the saint’s image through the window and hit a man who was passing on the street. At that moment they both fell in love and lived happily ever after. Truth or myth, this surely is a lovely story.

*alfacinha: is the name given to Lisbon’s locals. “Alface” is lettuce, . And “Alfacinha” is “little lettuce”, a more intimate derivative.


  1. Replies
    1. Love yours too.Will take a more serious look tomorrow.
      Thank you.

  2. Knowing my luck, I'd throw a pot of basil out the window and get arrested! Worth a try though!


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