Today we will talk about one of the most important celebrations in Portugal: Carnival!
Current Carnival is the Christian adaptation of ancient pagan celebrations in Greece, Egypt and in the Celtic environment. As its origin, also the etymology is still quite uncertain. Some people believe that the word derives from Latin “carne levare”, literally “remove meat”, that refers to the Medieval prohibition of eating meat during Lent, the liturgical season between the last day of Carnival and Easter. Relating to this, Carnival was the period of rashness and craziness before fast and abstinence.
Other people sustain that the word “Carnival” derives instead from “Carrus Navalis”, a big float with a boat shape and decorated with flowers, used during the processions in honor of goddess Isis in the Roman Age. This definition would explain also the traditional floats used in the parades.
Whichever was the origin of the celebration, what counts is that Carnival is the period of overturning of normal order, the period during which everyone can be someone else. This celebration in Portugal is super famous and attracts many tourist from all over the world. Here Carnival is about costumes, huge floats, colorful parades, music and of course typical fried sweets: in a word…it is a show that pushes you to dance and have fun. The most important parades are in Leulè, in the Algarve region, and in Torres Vedras, just one hour far from Lisbon.
This year, we went in Torres Vedras to taste the magic and crazy atmosphere of that small city. Torres Vedras is well known for its matrafonas (women with strange features), that were perfectly personified by a lot of men in feminine dresses and for cabeçudos, the giant heads that are the parody of important political characters. During the last days of Carnival (from Friday to Shrove Tuesday), the city is full of people, every evening there is a party, music never stops. We enjoyed the parade eating a tasty Bifana, the typical Portugues sandwich with meat and mustard.
The Carnival in Torres Vedras is for who want to have fun and are ready to meet crazy people. You should be ready to be involved in strange dance, to talk with people that you have never met before. This is the spirit of the celebration, and it is also the characteristic that makes Portuguese Carnival so special.
You can reach Torres Vedras by train or by bus, but train takes more time; the ticket costs 6 Euro one way, both by train and by bus. We suggest you to stay there for Monday night (before Shrove Tuesday) because it is the day of the biggest and most animated party.
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