Monday, June 13, 2011

The Night of Santo António

I’ve learned a little more about the holidays that started Friday.

So, the patron saint of Lisbon is Saint Vincent, but this time of year is always the Festival of Santo Anónio. Each of the bairros (neighborhoods) of the city decorate with streamers and balloons and whatever else they want, and then they kick off the “Festas de Lisboa” Sunday evening.

So last night I went downtown with Francisco and Fátima to watch the “Marchas.” At first it seemed like it’s a giant night parade (which is a great idea), but it was a little bit different. Although, one guy did throw candy, so that helped ease my mind.

Essentially, each of the bairros brings together a group of 50-80 (ish) people who are dressed up in all sorts of colors and traditional dress. Each group has a band which includes a few trumpets, a tuba, a snare drum, a base drum, and any other collection of brass and wind instruments.

One of the bands.

This kid was the greatest tuba player (Tubist?) ever.

The band arrives and the drummers start a cadence. Then the music starts up and the group moves all around, some of them dancing, some of them carrying props, some of them just standing in one spot and singing. Supposedly it’s a competition, but I wasn’t anywhere near judges of any sort.

To be honest, I thought it was interesting and enjoyable for about half an hour. There is a lot of down time between groups, and there’s no real change. Most of the music sounds the same (It’s called Fado, and is somewhat like Forró in Brazil), and the going-away song is always the same (and consequently stuck in my head).

So after half an hour I was ready to be done, but the people I was with planned to stay the whole time. Leave it up to me to forget my map (first, and last, time ever). So I people-watched and took a bunch of pictures that didn’t turn out very well (my camera doesn’t do much at night).

Among other things, Santo António is in charge of marriage. So partway through the procession there is a presentation of the Noivos (Spouses) of Santo António. As far as I could collect, they are young couples chosen by the city to be wed as the festival begins. Each of them is given help from the municipality and various stores/companies to help them begin their new lives as married people.

So, all in all, it was a good time. I don’t remember which bairro was which, but here are a few of the photos that turned out alright, featuring names that I gave each group:

The Snowcones

The Sparklies

The Pirates

The Green Lanterns

The Lightbulbs

The Awesome Mullet

Viva Lisboa!

On another note, happy 123rd birthday, Fernando Pessoa. You are one of my literary heroes. (More on Pessoa next time I post.)


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