Holy Week in Portugal: Discover 4 Unique Easter Traditions

Semana Santa em Montalegre: Queima do Judas, no Sábado de Aleluia.
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Holy Week in Portugal is celebrated in various ways from North to South of the country; however, I found some traditions that left a lasting impression on me.

This is a highly personal opinion article where I showcase the places I recommend visiting during Holy Week this year.

I talk about the unmissable Holy Week in Braga and Holy Week in Valença, but also about the celebration of the “Endoença” in Entre-os-Rios and Torrão, which has over 300 years of history.

Finally, I share with you what is the “Queima do Judas” in Montalegre.

Are you curious? Then keep reading, and if you have any suggestions for unique Easter celebrations, please leave a comment.

Holy Week in Braga

Procissão Semana Santa, em Braga.
Holy Week Procession in Braga.
Farricocos na Semana Santa, em Braga.
“Farricocos” during Holy Week in Braga.
Celebrações de Páscoa, em Braga.
Easter celebrations in Braga.
Procissão em Braga.
Holy Week in Braga.
Procissão noturna nas ruas de Braga.
Nighttime procession in Braga (Holy Week).
Celebração pascal em Braga.
Easter celebration in Braga.

The Holy Week in Braga is highly intense, featuring an unbelievable number of events. Indeed, the most challenging part is deciding which procession, liturgical activity, or ritual to participate in.

Nevertheless, the street ceremonies, particularly sought after, include:

  • March 24, Palm Sunday, 5:00 PM: Procession of the Steps;
  • March 27, Holy Wednesday, 9:30 PM: Procession of Our Lady of the “Donkey”;
  • March 28, Holy Thursday, 9:30 PM: Procession of the Lord Ecce Homo;
  • March 29, Good Friday, 9:30 PM: Procession of the Burial of the Lord;

Additionally, there are concerts, exhibitions, guided tours, and street entertainment, providing a plethora of activities for all tastes.

When: March 24th to 31st, 2024.

What to do in Braga during Holy Week? Besides participating in religious processions and cultural activities organized by the local community, I recommend attending sacred music performances or organ concerts in some of the historic churches.

Moreover, it’s always a good idea to take a stroll through the historic center of Braga, including visiting the Braga Cathedral, as well as exploring the city’s parks and gardens, such as the Santa Barbara Garden.

Lastly, you can visit the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte and the Sanctuary of Sameiro, a few kilometers from the city center.

Where to stay in Braga: To stay in the historic center of Braga, very close to where the processions pass, both the Hotel Bracara Augusta (4 stars) and the Vila Gale Collection Braga (4 stars) are a good choice. A more budget-friendly option is the Ibis Budget Braga Centro (2 stars).

Holy Week in Valença and Lanço da Cruz in Cristêlo-Covo

Senhor dos Passos, em Valença.
Lord of the Steps, in Valença.
Procissão no centro de Valença.
Procession in the center of Valença.
Procissão do Senhor dos Passos. Celebração da Semana Santa em Valença.
Procession of the Lord of the Steps. Celebration of Holy Week in Valença.
Semana Santa de Valença.
Holy Week in Valença.
Saída da Procissão do Senhor dos Passos, em Valença.
Departure of the Lord of the Steps Procession in Valença.

The celebrations of Holy Week in Valença have a strong tradition, with the city being invaded not only by Portuguese but also by many Spanish.

After all, Valença is located on the border with Spain, making it very easy for Galician neighbors to visit the city.

Therefore, it is not surprising that there are so many activities related to Easter in this period. Here are the most important ones:

  • March 17, 4:00 PM: Procession of the Steps;
  • March 24, Palm Sunday, 11:00 AM: Blessing of the Palms and procession to Santo Estêvão Church;
  • March 29, 10:00 PM: Procession of the Burial of the Lord;
  • April 1, 4:00 PM: Raising of the Cross (in Cristêlo-Covo).

When: March 17 to April 1, 2024.

Where to stay in Valença: Residencial Portas do Sol has a privileged location, as it is within the city walls. For me, it’s the best accommodation option.

Endoenças in Entre-os-Rios (Penafiel) and Torrão (Marco de Canaveses)

Endoenças, celebração da Semana Santa.
Endoenças, a celebration of Holy Week.
Entre-os-Rios preparada para a celebração das Endoenças.
Entre-os-Rios ready for the Endoenças celebration.
Tigelinhas a iluminar a Ponte sobre o Rio Tâmega.
Bowls illuminating the bridge over the Tâmega River.
Tigelinhas que iluminam as margens do Rio Tâmega.
Bowls illuminating the banks of the Tâmega River.

Despite the Endoenças being a Pascal event celebrated in Catholic parishes, as it refers to the celebrations of Thursday before Easter Sunday, in Entre-os-Rios and Torrão, Marco de Canaveses, they have unique characteristics.

The peculiarity of this festival I’m talking about is that the procession starts at the Parish Church of Santa Clara do Torrão (Marco de Canaveses), crosses the bridge over the Tâmega River, and continues to the Chapel of São Sebastião, in Entre-os-Rios (Penafiel).

In the past, the procession was carried out with the traditional rabelo boat, properly decorated and illuminated with lanterns.

These boats, called Fire Boats, although they no longer carry the image of the Lord from one bank to the other of the Tâmega River, still illuminate the river.

The tradition of illuminating the path of the procession with small bowls, as well as the banks of the Tâmega River, has also been maintained from those times.

There are several thousand small bowls in both parishes, decorating the houses, streets, and the path of the procession, as well as the two banks of the Tâmega River.

When one bowl goes out, someone appears to light it again.

The next day, the procession takes place in the opposite direction, i.e., it leaves the Chapel of São Sebastião and returns to the Parish Church of Santa Clara do Torrão. This tradition has more than 300 years of history!

When: March 28th.

Where to stay: My suggestion is the Quinta de Santo António – Country House & Villas (4 stars), which is very close to where the event takes place.

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Holy Week in Montalegre and the Burning of Judas

Queima do Judas, em Montalegre.
Burning of Judas in Montalegre.
Semana Santa em Montalegre: Queima do Judas, no Sábado de Aleluia.
Holy Week in Montalegre: Burning of Judas on Holy Saturday.
Evento antes da Queima do Judas, em Montalegre.
Pre-event before the Burning of Judas in Montalegre.
Semana Santa em Montalegre.
Holy Week in Montalegre.
Semana Santa em Montalegre: Queima do Judas.
Holy Week in Montalegre: Burning of Judas.

The Burning of Judas during Holy Week in Montalegre, in my opinion, is one of the most unique Easter traditions in Northern Portugal.

It happens every year on Holy Saturday, the eve of Easter Sunday. The event begins in the center of Montalegre, in front of the Town Hall, where the Judas figures are usually displayed.

Several groups gather to prepare their Judas, made of old clothes, wood, straw, and other materials with a satirical purpose.

On Holy Saturday night, these Judas figures parade to the Castle of Mogadouro. Then, each group’s representative reads a provocative letter before finally burning the Judas, which is hung from a tree.

When: The Burning of Judas takes place on Holy Saturday, March 30, 2024.

Where to stay in Montalegre: To stay in the center of Montalegre, I recommend Casa Machado, but if you don’t mind driving a few minutes, then I suggest you take a look at Charme da Mourela, a rural tourism accommodation that I’m sure you will like.

All you need to know about Holy Week in Portugal

Semana Santa no Norte de Portugal: Endoenças em Entre-os-Rios e Marco de Canaveses.
Holy Week in Northern Portugal: Endoenças in Entre-os-Rios (Penafiel) and Torrão (Marco de Canaveses).

When is Holy Week in Portugal?

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, so in 2024, it falls between March 24th and March 30th. It’s worth noting that Easter Sunday in 2024 is on March 31st.

How is Holy Week celebrated in Portugal?

Holy Week in Portugal is celebrated with various religious events, but not only that.

For example, many families take advantage of the school holidays to travel, with a significant number heading to the southern part of the country, particularly to the Algarve.

How is Easter celebrated in Portugal?

Similar to Holy Week, Easter in Portugal holds strong religious significance. In every parish, crosses are taken out, visiting the homes of families.

I’m not familiar with all the specific traditions, but in the north of Portugal, it’s common to place flowers or branches at the door if one intends to receive the cross. And, of course, to be attentive to open the door when the cross passes.

The cross is indeed the crucifix of Jesus Christ, which is received once a year in the homes of believers.

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