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Alfama’s Grand Festival is Coming!

Updated: Apr 2

Getting Ready For The Big Festival!

In June, the neighborhood of Alfama celebrates St. Anthony’s Day, a religious holiday dedicated to Lisbon’s patron saint. The residents started preparing for the event almost a month in advance, which will be quite the celebration if the scale of the preparations are any indication.

Religious Reflection or “Party Til You Puke”?

As the festival gets closer, I have learned dear old Anthony gets an entire month of celebrations. The Alfama is filled with grilled sardines and draft beer. It seems less of a time for religious reflection and more of a huge party. The tiny streets are packed with party goers, drinking heavily in an area with no public restrooms. My peaceful little Beco, located just off the square where the heart of the party is located, reportedly becomes a place for insanely drunk people to pee and puke.

Geez. I cannot wait.

I’ve inquired as to how late the celebrations go into the night. I’ve been told a variety of things from those that comfort me to those that terrify my, including:

  1. The city passed a rule that everything must shut down by 11pm. This makes me happy.

  2. The worst nights are June 8-12. Great! I’ll be out of town then.

  3. The weekends are the worst, with people partying until dawn. This is not good.

  4. It is loud the entire month and you cannot walk down Rua São Miguel, where my Beco connects. This is terrifying.

As I see it, I have a 50/50 chance of a normal life during the month of this event.

Preparations for the Festa

There is a constant sound of construction, with makeshift booths and stages for the bands going up on every possible inch of street. If you don’t have a store on that street, no worries! Just pick an empty building and put up a mini-shop of your own in front! Then you can sell whatever you want for the entire month of June.

The streamers running above the streets of Alfama like a temporary roof, appear to be an integral part of the festivities. As I sit outside the bar with friends from the neighborhood, we are intrigued as we watch these decorations go up. The tiniest woman in the Alfama is out there every night, stringing them from the lights running down the middle of the street to the buildings. The ladder is about 4 times her height, yet she is constantly running up and down that ladder as the man helping her moves it down the street. It’s coming together!

A Celebration for All

This huge party seems to be an event that appeals to all the Alfama residents. Everyone in the neighborhood seems genuinely excited and proud to be participating in some way. Even my favorite older neighbor, the little old man who putters around our Beco all day, was spotted in the midst of the setup for one of the local wine bars. He was not doing anything, just standing around. Perhaps he is a “shift supervisor”.

One of the brothers that runs the little bar I often eat at, is a huge critic of the event, complaining about the drunken revelry that will disrupt his business. However, when the decorations were going up outside his place, he was in the middle of the action, discussing the best way to hang the streamers. He said he just needed to make sure this part was okay as it is in front of his bar. Sure. Whatever you say.

I must admit that despite all the chaos that will inevitably be a part of this, even I’m a little intrigued to see it all come together.

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