In Portugal at Easter many centuries-old traditions are held throughout the country, two particularly traditional events are the processions of holy week in Braga and holy week in Castelo de Vide The former displays rigorous observance of Christian ritual, while the other is of Christian expression influenced by Jewish culture.
Easter in Braga - North of Portugal
Come to Braga at Easter and enjoy the festive atmosphere during the Semana Santa (Holy Week). Attend the Ecce Homo Procession on Good Friday, led by the Farricocos (barefoot men in tunics with hoods), one of the most peculiar parts of the religious tradition.
If you're in the Castelo de Vide region in the south, you'll experience a very different Easter celebration, one with Jewish origins. In the morning of Easter Eve, the region's shepherds invade the town centre to have their flocks of sheep blessed.
At night, during the Vigília Pascal (Paschal Vigil), people ask for forgiveness in secret, reminiscent of the Jewish Yom Kippur. At the end of the mass, all those present bring cowbells that ring the Cortejo da Aleluia (Procession of Alleluia) through the town.
Easter is the perfect time to try specialties of Portuguese cuisine. After the fasting of Lent, the best delicacies are eaten, such as roast kid, lamb stew, meatballs, buns, chocolate and almond eggs. Just a few of the delicious dishes you can try.
Easter in São Brás de Alportel --Algarve Region
The torches lead the way on Easter, which were formerly long candles, are now poles festooned with flowers. They are carried by men who gather together in two wings during the procession, which marks the Resurrection of Christ, celebrated on Easter Sunday in São Brás de Alportel.
The Alleluia Festival begins at 10 o'clock in the morning, and goes round the town to the sound of the tones "He is risen as He has said - Alleluia, Alleluia!". The townspeople turn out in force and join in the deep, deafening chant, which climaxes in the refrain "Alleluia!".
The Festival of Sounds and Tastes begins at 3 o'clock in the afternoon in the churchyard of the Parish Church, where the torches and the most traditional and artistic quilts receive prizes during a cultural evening that includes music and poetry.
This is a hallowed day for all of the townspeople, and a festival where the religious and the pagan are harmoniously combined.
The atmosphere is one of joy and a lot of color. The air is scented by the branches of lavender, rosemary and wild flowers that decorate the torches, and the town is decorated with the red and white quilts that hang in the windows.
During the day they eat the traditional and unique almonds and pine nuts, which have been homemade by the same family in São Brás de Alportel for more than a century.
Easter in Castelo de Vide -Alentejo Region
Easter in Castelo de Vide is one of the major local events and is of special interest due to the way it intermingles Catholic traditions with aspects of Jewish culture, in turn, highlighting the town's past history.
The celebrations are broken up into two stages: from Palm Sunday through to Good Friday and then from that evening through to Easter Monday, when celebrations most clearly demonstrate their Jewish antecedents. The traditions are still kept up even if for many of those involved there no longer is the initial religious meaning.
On Palm Sunday, there is the Blessing of the Palms and the Procession of Our Lord.
On the Thursday, mass is dedicated to the Lord's Last Supper with the Solemn Offering of Wine, Wax and Wheat for the celebration of Holy Mass throughout the rest of the year. Throughout the night, the Sacrament is worshiped.
Good Friday sees celebration of the Passion of our Lord, with the Adoration of the Holy Cross and the holding of Communion and late in the afternoon there is the Burial Procession of Our Lord.
On Easter Saturday there is the traditional Blessing of the Lambs with shepherds taking over the centre of the town along with their flocks so they can be blessed before being sold.
Animals bought on this day are killed in line with Jewish practices although many carry out the slaughter on the previous day prior to sun set as is set down in the Scriptures. The animals are left by the door of the house with the skins being cleaned and sold on to local artisans. They also serve as the highlight of rich Easter dining to mark the end of fasting throughout Lent.
At night, there is the Easter Vigil with the Blessing of the New Light and the Baptismal Water, the Eucharist and the Resurrection of Our Lord is announced. On leaving church, there is a most interesting tradition. Some people will approach and ask, in secret, for forgiveness, in a tradition that recalls the Jewish festival of Pardon, known as Kippur. At the end of mass, the Alleluia Procession begins inside the Matrix Church before heading out onto the main streets accompanied by a philharmonic band and the church bells.
Easter Sunday begins with the Resurrection Procession with its long established routing and hierarchy.
Easter Monday is a municipal holiday in Castelo de Vide to commemorate the Festival of Our Lady of Light. The morning mass is held in the Church of Senhora da Luz (Our Lady of Light) and in the afternoon, the Band tours the town inviting the people over to the celebration where there is the Ramos market and bar.