The smell of grilled sardines in the air, the heat coming and the basil pots for sale on every corner... The Popular Saints breathe tradition, joy, color and flavor. Celebrated throughout the month of June, these festivals are marked by tributes to the main popular saints, being Santo António, São João and São Pedro. Portuguese and visitors alike come together to share moments of conviviality, traditions, and of course, our delicious gastronomy!
The popular saints are very much rooted in Portuguese culture and mix religious and pagan elements, dating back to ancient times. They are seen as protectors of the communities and symbols of faith, love, and prosperity.
Gastronomy ends up playing a central role in these celebrations of the Saints where the dishes that stand out the most are, among them, caldo verde, always accompanied by chouriço sausage and roasted sardines, irresistible and usually served with bread or corn bread, drizzled with olive oil. The typical foods stand out and surprise even the palates of those who come from abroad!
The Popular Saints festivities are marked by lots of partying and entertainment and take place all over the country, but some cities are especially known for their celebrations! In Lisbon, the streets are decorated, there are festivals and popular marches, where each neighborhood competes and there are the famous Santo António weddings, a tradition where couples get together in symbolic marriage, as this Saint is known for being The Matchmaker! In Porto, the party is centered in the streets, with folkloric music and dancing, bonfires that are said to ward off evil spirits, fireworks that light up the skies, creating a spectacle of light and color, and the traditional burning of Saint John's balloons, in which a wish is usually made before the balloons are burned and released into the air. During São Pedro, processions, balls and popular marches are organized in the streets, and music is also always present. In gastronomy, roasted sardines, bell pepper, corn bread, caldo verde, and wine are the main elements of the feast.
One could say "Saint Anthony is over, Saint Peter is finishing, Saint John, Saint John, Saint John, give me a balloon to play with"...