Although there are only 13 official public holidays in Portugal it sometimes seems as if there are more. This is partly due to the fact that events which aren’t technically public holidays are celebrated as if they were, such as Carnival (Shrove Tuesday) in February or March, and partly due to the vast number of patron saints’ days or the commemoration of regional historical events throughout the country which are celebrated as local holidays. The popular saints’ days in June bring a month of holidays in various regions of the country, starting with the Festa de Santo António (Feast of Saint Anthony) in Lisbon celebrated on 12 and 13 June, followed by the Festa de São João (Feast of Saint John) in Porto and Braga on 23 and 24 June and the Festa de São Pedro (Feast of Saint Peter) in Póvoa de Varzim, Bombarral, Castro Verde, Felgueiras, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Montijo, São Pedro do Sul, Sintra, Seixal and Évora on 28 and 29 June. In addition, every village and town has its own dedicated day at some point during the year which is honoured with traditional festivities.
The 13 official holidays are very important to the Portuguese and when four of them (Corpus Christi, Republic Day, All Saints’ Day, and Restoration of Independence Day) were abolished by the then Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, in 2012, as an attempt to increase productivity during the financial crisis, it was one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation of Passos Coelho’s government. One of the first things that António Costa did when he became Prime Minister in 2015 was to reinstate these four holidays. Each public holiday is celebrated on the day it falls, even if it falls on a weekend. However, if it falls on a Tuesday or Thursday many people take the opportunity to have an extra-long weekend by taking a day off on the Monday (if it falls on a Tuesday) or the Friday (if it falls a Thursday), known as a ponte (‘bridge’), or occasionally being given a tolerância de ponto (an official day off given to public-sector workers and schools) between the public holiday and the weekend. One of the highlights at the start of the new year is looking at a calendar to see how many long weekends and ‘bridges’ there are in the year ahead.
The following are the 13 official public holidays observed throughout the country:
- 1 January – New Year’s Day (Dia de Ano Novo)
- March/April (date varies) – Good Friday (Sexta-Feira Santa)
- March/April (date varies) – Easter Sunday (Páscoa)
- 25 April – Freedom Day (Dia da Liberdade)
- 1 May – Worker’s Day (Dia do Trabalhador)
- May/June (date varies) – Corpus Christi (Corpo de Deus)
- 10 June – Portugal Day (Dia de Portugal)
- 15 August – Assumption Day (Assunção de Nossa Senhora)
- 5 October – Republic Day (Implantação da República)
- 1 November – All Saints’ Day (Dia de Todos os Santos)
- 1 December – Restoration of Independence Day (Restauração da Independência)
- 8 December – Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dia da Imaculada Conceição)
- 25 December – Christmas Day (Natal)
Banks, post offices and other public services are closed on national and local public holidays (this also includes some museums) and public transport runs to a reduced timetable. However, large shopping centres and shops and restaurants in tourist areas should be open as usual. Churches will be closed to tourists while Mass is taking place.