Lisbon has a calendar chock full of saint days but none rival the Feast of St. Anthony that happens annually during mid June. I was lucky to be here during this year’s festival. This doesn’t exactly reflect on my excellent planning skills but rather just a stroke of luck.
The whole city decks out in colorful streamers and each neighborhood takes over a park or plaza to hold their own celebration with music, dancing, drinking, and eating. Sangria and grilled sardines seems to be the fare of choice for most, but the open flame roasted pigs smelled wonderful too.
The Santo Antonio Festival is characterized by the tradition of “Noivas de Santo Antonio,” (the brides of St. Anthony), when hundreds of Lisbon couples get married and take advantage of the biggest parties imaginable. At the cathedral dedicated to the Saint a mass wedding is conducted and I just happened to stumble upon it where hundreds of people were gathered outside the church to greet the newly wedded couples after the ceremony. The wedding mass was broadcast on speakers all around the plaza outside the church and it was quite a media event.
These festivities are somewhat clouded in sadness for me as I could not help thinking…here I was attending a mass wedding full of joy and celebration at about the same moment a crazed gunman was mowing down over 100 innocent people in Orlando in the worst mass shooting in US history.
As the day wears on, the mood becomes a little more nefarious. There is a parade that begins at 9pm and goes into the wee hours of the morning. You see many people sporting sardine hats and for some reason green wigs. I understand the sardine hats as that fish is nearly a patron saint in its own right, but I forget the significance of the green wigs.