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The Best Portuguese Easter Foods

Portugal is a country rich in history and heritage, and steeped in religious ritual and tradition. Its culture represents layer upon layer of different civilizations that lived in and ruled Europe’s westernmost country during past millennia — from prehistoric cultures to the Phoenicians and the Romans, spanning Germanic invasions, the Sephardic Jewish migration and finally the Moorish conquest and subsequent expulsion. Today, Portugal is largely Roman Catholic but pieces of these ancient civilizations can still be found, in museums and monuments – yes — but also in small villages and abandoned churches; in the language with its mix of Latin and Arabic influences; and of course on the table.

Here are five of the best Portuguese Easter foods, the holiest holiday in Portugal, all of them full of flavor and history.

If food is a religion in Portugal, then codfish is its most holy dish. It’s said that there are 365 different ways to prepare bacalhau, the Portuguese national dish of salted, dried codfish — one for each day of the year. True or not, one thing is for sure – on Good Friday, bacalhau will be consumed by Portuguese families across the country in keeping with the tradition of abstaining from meat until Easter Sunday.

Lamb or Baby Goat
A holiday tradition in many parts of the world, roast lamb is often the centerpiece of the Portuguese table on Easter Sunday. Harking back to the Jewish tradition, lamb represents the sacrifice during the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. In the northern part of the country, cabrito, or baby goat, is often served in place of lamb. Whether lamb or goat, the meat is seasoned with the Portuguese trinity of garlic, bay leaves and white wine, and roasted […]

March 16, 2016|

Carnaval in Portugal

The Carnaval in Portugal is an annual event that keeps everyone talking. The carnival is fun, you have music and plenty of food. It is a time when you really can get to know the locals. You can take in the culture and have a blast. The carnival is a great place to stop if you are visiting the area or makes a nice destination all on its own.

Photo: Pedro Dias
Carnival is usually not religious in nature and therefore it continues well past Ash Wednesday when religious affiliated carnivals end. In fact, the carnival in Portugal usually last almost three weeks. It is a non-stop party where the focus is on fun and celebration.
Carnival is all about music, dancing and, of course, the costumes. The elaborate costumes of carnival are something to behold. Many people spend months preparing their costumes for the celebration. From feathers to metal to sequins, you will see it all. The native people take carnival very seriously. They will be meticulous in preparing their costumes and they are focused on ensuring every detail is perfected. Carnival may be all about fun, but the preparation is hard work.

Photo: Gustavo Veríssimo
Just an hour north of Lisbon in Torres Vedras, you’ll find what is known to be the most traditional Carnival celebration in Portugal. Here they’ve kept the original practices that were set in place in the thirteen century despite a brief break from 1937 (due to World War II) until 1948 when it was restored. This city is known for its matrafonas (men masqueraded as women) and cabeçudos (giant heads) as well as its parades that include floats and Zés Pereiras drumming groups. The festivities last five days and include an annual theme. In 2015 the theme was “Love” – celebrating Valentine’s Day […]

February 9, 2016|

How Portuguese celebrate St. Martins Day

Over the centuries, St. Martins Day, in late Autumn, has evolved into a celebration of the harvest. In Portugal,St. Martins Day, or Dia de São Martinho, has become a day to celebrate the maturation of the year’s wine production.
On this day a large party is held. A bonfire is built, people dance and sing around it and roast the recently-harvested chestnuts (sometimes dry figs and walnuts), and drink a local light alcoholic beverage called “água-pé” – (literally “foot-water”) made by adding water to the pomace left after the juice is pressed out of the grapes for wine (traditionally by stomping on them in vats with bare feet, and letting it ferment for several days) – or the “jeropiga”, a sweet liquor made with “aguardente”. Traditionally is also the first day when the first wines of the season, called the new wines, can be tasted. This is celebration festival is known as a magusto (believed to come from the Latin magnus ustus or “great fire”).

Photo: Nelson Carvalheiro
If you’re in Portugal on November 11, you’ll want to be at a magusto. Many Portuguese restaurants will offer special menus and events at this date.

As they say in Portugal: É dia de São martinho. Comem-se castanhas; prova-se o vinho! (“It is St. Martins Day. We’ll eat chestnuts; we’ll taste the wine.”)
This period is also quite popular because of the usual good weather period that occurs in Portugal in this time of year, called Verão de São Martinho (St. Martins Summer). It is frequently tied to the legend since Portuguese versions of St. Martin’s legend usually replace the snowstorm with rain (because snow is not frequent in most parts of Portugal, while rain is common at that time of the year) […]

November 11, 2015|