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Easter Traditions in northern Portugal

Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR CC BY-NC-ND

Religious festivities are of great importance in northern Portugal. The catholic religion is evident in the historical and architectural patrimony of the region, which can be visited throughout the year. However, there are religious events that increase this mystery, such as Holy Week and Easter.

From Braga to Trás-os-Montes, passing through Matosinhos and Vila Real, the precessions, burials, pilgrimages and other festivities are repeated throughout the week, culminating with Easter Sunday, and an atmosphere of celebration.

Visit Braga during Easter, go up to the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte, a magnificent place where the works of nature and of man are brought together, and come to the Holy Week celebrations, which have taken place in the Portuguese Rome since the Middle Ages. During the festive period, the city is transformed, attracting thousands of visitors. All over the city, there are decorations based on Easter themes and pretty street altars, adorned with flowers and lights.

The city is decorated with Easter themes and the “Passos” – street altars, are filled with flowers and lights. Come to the Ecce Homo procession or burial, on Easter Friday, led by the coffin-bearers. Barefoot and with their heads covered, these men process wearing purple tunics and with torches in their hands. They are some of the most curious figures of our religious tradition and are reminiscent of the public penitent reconciliation rituals, carried out until the 17th Century.

All over the country, but especially in the region of Trás-os-Montes, the “Autos da Paixão” take over village life, narrating Christ’s last days, starting with his betrayal right up until his crucifixion, and involve dozens of extras who represent the central figures in the death of Christ. The Sacred Road is followed in many villages that still conserve the 14 crosses, or cruzeiros, and which symbolise the path to the cross. The Compasso Pascal is also traditional in many villages in northern Portugal, carried out on Easter Sunday.

In Matosinhos, for example, the community complies rigorously with the saying “During Palm Week, wash your clothes. During the week of passion, you should not wash them”, cleaning their houses during Holy Week. On Easter Sunday, flowers or herbs are placed in order to receive the Compasso and the table is covered with pão-de-ló (sponge cake), bola de carne (Portuguese meat pie), folar (traditional bread), Port wine, fruit, amongst other delicacies, in order to feed those who bring the cross of Christ.

After a long period of abstention during Lent, Easter represents the end of the fasting, with gastronomy playing a central role. Folar is the most important, and is sometimes filled with the best meats.

Make the most of the long Easter weekend and get inside the traditions of a region where religion plays a central part in the life of the community. Find out where you can stay and contact us in order to make a detailed plan for experiencing Holy Week in northern Portugal.



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