Feast of St Anthony – Lisbon’s sardine festival
Griddles at the ready folks – today marks the final day of the Feast of St Anthony in Lisbon, Portugal. Over the last couple of days the city’s old quarters of Alfama have been going Sardine crazy – the smell of grilled Sardines has filled the air with people cooking the tasty treats outside houses and restaurants.
Why go sardine crazy?
The tradition dates back to 13th century Italy, when locals became disinterested in St. Anthony’s sermons, he took the sea and delivered them to the fish. According to legend, the fish took notice and all raised their heads above the waves, in turn, all the locals flocked to the shore to witness this and listen to St Anthony’s sermon.
The festival is also a celebration of love and marriage prospects. All sorts of rituals take place by people hoping to be found a partner by the matchmaker saint – single women might write their suitor’s name on the piece of paper and roll it up to be placed in a bowl of water under their bed. In the morning, the piece of paper that has unfurled the most indicates the lucky man. Men, meanwhile, present their love interest with a basil plant containing a love poem – during the festival basil pots spring up on balconies throughout the city.