Life in PortugalPublic Holidays in Portugal 2020: How to Celebrate All Year Long

Anna-Jane3 weeks ago

It’s no surprise, of course, that Portugal has its own special public holidays — times for fun, family, and celebration.

Some Portuguese holidays are probably already familiar to you, while others you might never have heard of.

Read on to learn more about when and how the people of Portugal celebrate public holidays. We’ve even included a list of public holidays for 2019 and 2020 at the end of this article.

What kinds of holidays are celebrated in Portugal?

Public holidays in Portugal fall into three general categories:

  • Those commemorating important events in Portuguese history
  • Religious holidays based on Catholic traditions
  • Festivals celebrated in a specific town or region

About half of the holidays in Portugal are observed on a specific date — for instance, Dia de Liberdade (Freedom Day) is always on April 25th, regardless of the day of the week.

The rest of Portugal’s holidays change dates from year to year but always fall on a specific day, like Easter Sunday.

How are public holidays celebrated in Portugal?

Cascais Beach

It’s a well-known fact that Portuguese people love to celebrate holidays. They also make family time a priority, and holidays are no exception. It’s typical to see three (maybe even four!) generations of family members celebrating together, especially during important holidays like Christmas and Easter.

In fact, family ties are so strong in Portugal, many young adults who have moved out on their own still visit their parents for Sunday dinner every week.

You’ll notice this especially during warm weather festivals like Santo António in Lisbon or São João in Porto. Friends, neighbors, and families of all ages gather in the streets to eat, drink, and dance to the sounds of pimba music — often late into the evening.

And then there are holidays like Corpus Christi, when celebrants might join a public procession organized by their local church. Or Dia de Liberdade (Freedom Day), where you’ll see flag-filled parades to celebrate the end of the dictatorship in 1974.

During the summer holidays, expect to find a lot of Portuguese doing one of the things they love most: going to the beach.

If you’re looking for a nice beach in Portugal, read our guides to the best beaches in Lisbon, Zambujeira do Mar, Aveiro, Algarve and Castro Marim.

What businesses are open on public holidays in Portugal?

Don’t worry, you can still shop during public holidays. Supermarkets like Pingo Doce or Continente and malls (centros comerciais) are always open on public holidays. Most restaurants and major retailers in urban areas will also be open.

But that tiny churrasqueira with the best grilled chicken in your neighborhood, or the local hardware store? Don’t be surprised if you stop by only to find a “closed” sign posted on the door. Many small businesses in Portugal close during public holidays, so they can enjoy the festivities along with everyone else.

The takeaway here is simple: If you think you’ll need something from a local business and a holiday is on the way, make sure you plan ahead — or wait until after the holiday.

Does public transport run on public holidays in Portugal?

Lisbon Tram Portugal

Absolutely. You can still take a bus, subway, train, or tram during a holiday — but it’s likely that public transit will run less frequently that day.

To figure out the holiday schedule, take a look at a public transit timetable and keep an eye out for the words feriados (holidays) or Domingos e feriados (Sundays and holidays). Public transit typically follows Sunday schedules on holidays.

Learn the ins and outs of Lisbon public transit. Want to know the best ways to get around Porto? Read this article.

Portuguese public holidays

Ready to celebrate like a Portuguese local? Here’s a list of public holidays in Lisbon, and a little bit about why they’re celebrated.

  • January 1: Ano Novo (New Year’s Day) is celebrated in much the same way in Portugal as it is in the U.S. or U.K. — with family and friends, quite possibly recovering from the festivities of the night before!
  • April 25th: Dia de Liberdade (Freedom Day). This holiday commemorates the Carnation Revolution, a peaceful coup d’état in 1974 that overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship. It’s a day filled with patriotic events, including a parade down Lisbon’s Avenida de Liberdade. You’ll probably see people carrying red carnations to mark the day, offered by street vendors all over the city.
  • May 1st: Dia do Trabalhador (Labor Day). This is the Portuguese version of International Worker’s Day, which honors laborers of all types, especially the working classes.
  • June 10th: Dia de Portugal (National Day of Portugal). On this day, Portuguese everywhere observe the anniversary of the death of Portugal’s most famous poet, Luís de Camões. You’ll see military parades, historical exhibitions, and concerts along with lots of public appearances by the President of Portugal.
  • October 5th: Implantação da República (Republic Day). Each year, Portugal celebrates the end of Portuguese monarchy and the establishment of the Portuguese First Republic.
  • December 1st: Restauração da Independência (Restoration of Independence). On December 1st, Portugal remembers the day the country freed itself from a 60-year span of Spanish domination known as the Iberian Union.

holiday parade in portugal
Freedom Day parade. Photo credit: projectlisboa.com

Religious holidays

Corpus Christi Portugal
Corpus Christi procession. Photo credit: projectlisboa.com

  • Sexta-Feira Santa (Good Friday) and Domingo de Páscoa (Easter Sunday) are two of the biggest religious holidays in Portugal. Unlike in some other countries, however, Easter Monday is not considered a public holiday — so everything should be open for business as usual.
  • Corpus Christi always falls on a Thursday sometime between May 21 and June 24. It’s usually celebrated by local churches with a special Holy Mass and a public procession.
  • August 15: This day marks the Assumption of Mary, a holiday celebrating the Virgin Mary’s ascention into Heaven. This holiday usually attracts a lot of crowds to the Fátima Sanctuary.
  • November 1: All Saints’ Day is not only a holiday commemorating all Christian saints and martyrs, it’s also a day of remembrance for family members who have passed away. Before All Saints’ Day, you may spot chrysanthemums in the local markets. These flowers are often placed on graves on this day.
  • December 8: The Day of the Immaculate Conception celebrates exactly what it sounds like. In days gone by, the Portuguese also celebrated Mother’s Day on this day, but in more recent years, Portuguese moms are honored on the first Sunday of May.
  • December 25: Christmas Day, of course!

To learn about Portuguese Christmas traditions, click here.

Regional holidays

Grilled Sardines Portugal

In addition to national and religious holidays, Portugal also celebrates quite a few regional holidays. This means Lisboetas take June 13th off to celebrate O Dia do Santo António (the Feast of St. Anthony), while folks in the rest of Portugal go to work as usual. Porto has its own Feast of St John the Baptist on June 24. And in the Azores and Madeira, people celebrate their own holidays on June 10 and July 1, respectively. Check out the calendar below to see who’s celebrating, and when.

Even more holidays

Beyond religious and public holidays, people in Portugal also celebrate the following:

  • March 5th: Carnaval (Mardi Gras/Carnival)
  • March 19th: Dia do Pai (Father’s Day)
  • May 5th: Dia da Mãe (Mother’s Day)
  • June 1st: Dia das Crianças (Children’s Day)
  • July 26th: Dia dos Avós (Grandparents’ Day)

Learn more about Carnaval in Portugal here.

And to help you keep track of all these celebrations — yes, the Portuguese do love to celebrate — here’s a current calendar for you.

Public holidays in Portugal 2019/2020:

2019

  • Nov. 1: Todos os Santos (All Saints’ Day)
  • Dec. 1: Restauraçaõ da Independência (Restoration of Independence Day)
  • Dec. 8: Imaculada Conceição (Immaculate Conception)
  • Dec. 25: Dia de Natal (Christmas Day)

Public holidays 2020

  • Jan. 1: Ano Novo (New Year’s Day)
  • April 10: Sexta-Feira Santa (Good Friday)
  • April 12: Domingo de Páscoa (Easter Sunday)
  • April 25: Dia da Liberdade (Freedom Day)
  • May 1: Dia do Trabalhador (Labor Day)
  • June 10: Dia de Portugal (National Day of Portugal)
  • June 11: Corpus Christi
  • June 13: St. Anthony’s Day (in Lisbon only)
  • June 24: St John’s Day (Porto’s Municipal holiday).
  • August 15: Assunção de Nossa Senhora (Assumption of Mary);
  • Oct. 5: Implantação da República (Republic Day)
  • Nov. 1: Todos os Santos (All Saints’ Day)
  • Dec. 1: Restauração da Independência (Restoration of Independence Day)
  • Dec. 8: Imaculada Conceição (Immaculate Conception)
  • Dec. 25: Dia de Natal (Christmas Day)

No matter what the occasion or how it’s celebrated, Portuguese holidays are always a time for family and friends. Join in!

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Anna-Jane

Cristo Rei Lisbon Portugal

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