I visited Portugal with my family for the very first time in 2002, I distinctly remember it was in June and the very first thing we did was to go to Casa de Goa for a ‘Sardinhada’. It was my first experience of June 12 and the feast of St. Anthony in Portugal. Subsequently, we visited a big mansion of a retired embassador to the Africas, where again, there were sardines barbequing on the pit.

The reason for this post is the ‘Casamentos de Santo António’, a programme I watched on RTP channel today. It suddenly brought back memories of Portugal and our wonderful trips there over the years. Being a catholic, I am used to celebrating many feasts in a single year and in Portugal, the feast of St. Anthony is also just one of them! It is also named ‘ The Lisbon Sardine Festival’

Every year, from June 12-14, Lisbon honors St. Anthony of Padua, its most revered Patron Saint, with a festival and holiday. Tonight is the best night out in Portugal (First day of the celebrations). Most of Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhoods will be festooned with colourful decorations.

At the Igreja de Santo Antonio, there will be mass weddings like the one I watched on RTP today. The party will last the whole night through with beer stalls and sardines grilling everywhere. Sangria too will be served alongside the beer. St. Anthony was born in Lisbon in the 12th C but later after he became a padre, moved to Padua in Italy. I have visited the room where he was born. It is on the road up to St. George Castle. St. Anthony is the patron saint of missing things. People pray to St. Anthony for their missing things to be restored to them. But in Portugal, he is also known as a ‘matchmaker, bringing together scores of singles together.

The sardines are served in ‘sardinha no pão’ and this particular fish is served everywhere because it was the only fish that the poor could afford. St. Anthony being a Franciscan monk, had taken a vow of poverty and therefore was associated with the poor. Another legend says that when the people of Italy rejected his sermons, he went to the seashore and preached to the fish and millions of fish came to the seashore to listen to him preach!

If you are single and want to pray for a good bride do take a trip to Portugal and leave a note inside a roll of bread at the base of St. Anthony’s picture inside the church dedicated to him (If not the bride, you would at least get to see Lisbon in the bargain!)

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