Easter traditions in Algarve
Easter is arriving and Portugal, being traditionally a Catholic country, celebrates it religiously, and not so much in the “pagan” way, around stories of bunnies and Easter eggs, that is more frequent in Protestant countries. Across the nation there are public processions and celebrations, culminating in Easter Sunday, when families get together to eat, drink and also receive the visit of the local priest. Algarve is no exception to this and is home to some unique celebrations that distinguish the region from the rest of the country.
Check out what you can find in the region during this period.
“Domingo de Ramos” remembers the arriving of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem and spells the beginning of the Holy Week. Several parishes set-up public processions recreating the scene, with a Christ and Roman soldiers taking him. The procession of Tavira is especially famous, having the name of “Procissão do Triunfo” (Procession of Triumph).
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday
Celebrations remember the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. In Moncarapacho, the procession of “Endoenças” (popular Portuguese for “Indulgences”) happens around 10:30 pm, after the mass of the Lord’s Supper. On Friday, different parishes do the “procession of the burial”, a long, silenced celebration to remember the death of Christ. According to the Catholic rite, Good Friday is the only day of the year when there cannot happen any mass.
The victory of life over death is celebrated with joyful processions throughout Algarve, getting their own names and original features. There is the “Procissão Real” in Silves and Monchique, of the Holy Sacrament in Lagoa, of “Campainhas” in São Clemente (Loulé).
One of the most well-known has a double meaning, deeply connected with British history. The procession of “Tochas Floridas” (flowering torches), in São Brás de Alportel, also remembers the military victory of local peasants over the troops of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, in 1596, which had just sacked the city of Faro, in the context of the Anglo-Spanish War. At the time, Portugal was united with Spain. The event is so magnificent that 3 tonnes of flowers are needed to build the 1 km long carpet over which the procession will march.
In Loulé, it’s also very prominent the procession of the “Mãe Soberana” (the “sovereign mother”). Includes a large procession and an open field mass and some say it’s the biggest religious celebration in Portugal south of Fátima.
Lamb, the first fava beans of the season, almonds and the “folar”, the traditional cake of Easter, are just some of the delicacies that people enjoy in Easter Sunday. Local restaurants and local friends will be eager to share their gastronomic expertise with you. “Aleluia” (hallelujah)!