Good Friday in Portugal
Good Friday, known as "Sexta-feira Santa" in Portuguese, is a significant Christian observance held in Portugal. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. In Portugal, Good Friday is observed annually on the Friday before Easter Sunday, which varies each year. It falls within the week known as Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday and concludes with Easter Sunday. The date of Good Friday is determined by the Gregorian calendar, where it falls on the first Friday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
The observance of Good Friday in Portugal dates back to the early days of Christianity in the country. Portugal has a long history of Catholicism, with the religion being introduced during the Roman period. However, it was during the reign of King Afonso I (1109-1185), the first king of Portugal, that Catholicism became the official religion of the country. As Catholicism took root in Portugal, so did the observance of Good Friday, with its solemn rituals and traditions.
National customs for Good Friday in Portugal
Good Friday in Portugal is marked by a somber and reflective atmosphere. Many people attend church services, where the Stations of the Cross are often reenacted. This reenactment depicts Jesus' journey from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to his crucifixion and burial. The service often includes the Adoration of the Cross, a ceremony in which a wooden cross is kissed by the congregation to honor Jesus' sacrifice.
In addition to attending church services, it is common for Portuguese people to fast or abstain from eating meat on Good Friday. This act of penance is a way to honor the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Many families choose to eat fish instead of meat on this day, with dishes such as codfish being popular choices.
Local customs for Good Friday in Portugal
While the national customs of attending church services and fasting are observed throughout Portugal, there are also regional and local customs that add a unique flavor to Good Friday celebrations in different parts of the country. One of the most famous local customs is the "Procissão do Senhor dos Passos" (Procession of the Lord of the Steps) in Lisbon. This procession features a statue of Jesus carrying the cross and is accompanied by penitents dressed in purple robes, carrying candles and praying.
In the northern city of Braga, the "Ecce Homo" procession takes place, where participants dress in traditional costumes and walk through the city's streets, reenacting the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion. Similarly, in the town of Óbidos, a theatrical representation of the Passion of Christ is performed in the streets, with local residents playing the roles of Jesus, the Apostles, and other biblical figures.
Good Friday in Portugal is a day of solemn reflection and deep religious significance. The national and local customs observed on this day serve to honor the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and provide a time for Portuguese people to connect with their faith and the history of their country. Whether attending a church service, fasting, or participating in a local procession, Good Friday in Portugal is a powerful reminder of the importance of faith and tradition in the lives of Portuguese people.