The Feast of St. Anthony

This week is traditionally the hottest time of the year in Lisbon. It’s also the celebration of St. Anthony, or Santo Antonio. Although he is not Lisbon’s official patron saint (that honor belongs to St. Vincent), he is certainly its dearest.

Although he is associated with Padua, the city where he died, St. Anthony was actually born in Lisbon to a very wealthy family who wanted him to get a formal education. He went against their wishes and instead entered the community of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine at an abbey on the outskirts of Lisbon.

St. Anthony’s feast day is June 13, the day of his death. Throughout the month of June and this past weekend in particular, Lisbon revs up the celebrating of its native son.

Neighborhoods compete to see who can host the best parades, best costumes, and street decorations.  Everywhere you turn, you can see sardines (the traditional food of this feast due to the fact that Saint Anthony was able to talk to fishes) being grilled out on the streets.

It’s an incredibly lively scene. We lived in downtown Lisbon when our daughters were toddlers and you could hear the parties and laughing and singing and smell the grilled sardines well into the morning.

In addition to being the patron saint of lost things, St. Anthony is also the patron saint of weddings. To this day, some Portuguese couples get married in mass weddings during the celebrations.

Manjerico (basil bush) is also associated with Saint Anthony. The tradition is that a man can proclaim his love by bringing a bouquet of manjerico with a poem attached to his beloved. The woman must touch it and then smell her hand to ensure that the plant doesn’t die.

My daughter Tati was born on June 14. Now she’s turning 17. I love this picture of her on her first birthday (in one of my first designs) wearing a Saint Anthony medal given to her by her father. She still wears it today.

Also, this week: The anniversary of the birth of Portugal’s most famous poet, Fernando Pessoa, who was born in Lisbon’s Chiado neighborhood on June 13, 1888.

Next week, St. John is celebrated in the northern town of Porto. The entire period of celebrating is known across the country as “Popular Saints.” These celebrations and traditions embody Portugal at its best. And, despite the heat, it’s a wonderful time to visit.



%d bloggers like this: