Blog 4 Travels With The Crazy Cat Lady Carnival- Portugal Junebug Jorgensen
It’s Carnival time!
“Are you coming to the carnival in Loule next week?” asked my friend Gerry.
“No, I don’t think so, I have too much to do,” I answered, with a hint of trepidation, knowing full well I was in the minority.
Carnival season had started a few days ago, February 19, 20 and 21st in Loule, about 40 minutes from where I live. The highest point is on Carnival Tuesday, a public holiday February 21st, when the parades and festivities take place, giving locals the days off to celebrate. Everyone dresses up, the children are out of school, and the whole country celebrates.
With the last carnival (Entrudo in Portuguese) held in 2020, the country of 10 million was back to its normal self.
Sitting in my sunny living room listening to Buddha chant softly in the background from YouTube, and revising a second draft of my essay, I mused over what I was missing.
“Hmmm, now why would I want to see the oldest carnival in Portugal, dating back to the 13th century, with 14 gaily coloured floats, 9 animation groups, 3 samba schools, and more than 600 entertainers in vibrant displays of bright colourful costumes, music, bands and dancing frenzy over three days of song and dance, carrying into the early hours of the morning?
Or see a caterpillar, a gecko, or the king of the parade, a Metoposaurus Algarvensis, an extinct amphibian similar to a giant salamander that lived 227 million years ago, and which inspired the bid to become a UNESCO Geopark.
Or eat Chourico (Portuguese sausage), Arroz de Marisco (fish, rice stew), Bolinhos de Bacalhau (salted cod patties), Pastel de Nata (world famous custard tarts) washed down with Cerveja (beer) and locally grown vino (red, white or green wine), in the crowded cafes and restaurants and tents that lined the parade route, along with the other eighty thousand merry partygoers?
I hurriedly checked online for other carnivals in my area.
Portimao, Albufeira, Faro, and many other towns had festivities and floats, but they were also from February 17 to 22 – almost over.
Today was the last day, but I had line-dancing at 3 pm, an end-of-the-month writing deadline, and Portuguese lessons (I had to be somewhat clear-headed)!
I decided to look elsewhere in Portugal as every location had some Mardi Gras- like Carnival going on.
One of the biggest Carnivals of all was in Lisbon, where the city almost comes to a standstill for a few days. Trapeze artists and clowns are part of the parade route. Hotels are full and if anyone knows how to party it’s the Portuguese. It also finished on Feb. 22.
The Carnival in Ovar, Portugal is one of the biggest Mardi Gras parades, from February 1 – March 5th and hosts the most important event for the folklore of Portugal. I can still make it; just have to figure out how to drive 3 hours north of here and find a cheap hotel (and amigos to tag along)! Huge carnivals are also in Sesimbra, Torres Verdras (considered the most Portuguese of Portugal), and Funchal, and on the islands of Madeira and Azores.
Carnivals began hundreds of year’s ago in Italy, of Catholic origin, where people dressed in outrageous costumes the day before lent. During lent, Catholics abstain from meat, so the festival was called ‘Carnevale’ which literally means ‘put away the meat,’ and the name ‘Carnival’ stuck.
Over time, carnivals in Italy grew in popularity, and the party spread to all Catholic countries in Europe.
As the Portuguese, Spanish and French began to discover and control the Americas and other parts of the world, they took with them their tradition of celebrating carnivals.
You heard of the Carnival in Brazil, right? Well, Portugal brought the Carnival to Brazil in 1723!
Searching in the local newspaper, I saw the Alvor Carnival was until the 26th, so I wandered into town to see what’s happening. I just need to follow the music and the crowds, well, crowds for a small village. My favorite costume of choice is a butterfly, with large, brightly coloured forewings, antennas and a long hindwing fluttering behind me. I will order mine from Amazon for the Sita Festival in Alvor, May 25th; or maybe I’ll be a cat again. This is one party I won’t miss! There’s already a large group of friends gearing up for it, in eager anticipation!
After some soul-searching, I think I’ll stay local this year. The weather is warming up to 18 in the daytime; the sun shows its bright face most days; the sea-shelled beach is beckoning me with its off-season scantly-clad bathers braving the cool waters; short trips are planned for the spring; there is dancing 3 times a week; fitness and Portuguese lessons; lunches and dinners; a writers group has started up, not to mention my daily writing and blog.
When I find the time, I’ll check out hotels online in Loule for 2024.
Gotta think ahead!