June 13 is Santo António's night and it is celebrated in a huge party on the night of 12 to 13 in the old part of Lisbon. If you are in the city you can be sure to have a crazy night! June arrives in the city and the "jacarandá"'s flowers blossom everywhere.
The weather is getting warmer, now people don’t just run home after work. My neighbours set the grill outside to make sardines and meat for lunch. The smell floods the street, enters through the window, the cat inside gets nervous.
In the historical/popular neighbourhoods of Lisbon it’s time to get everything ready to celebrate the month of the city and it’s saint, Santo António. This period is called “Santos Populares” because São Pedro and São João are also celebrated during this month, the last one in an equally crazy party in Porto.
“Arraiais” are set in the streets – a place to sell food and drinks, live music, a space to dance and all decorated with colorful ribbons and balloons.
Each neighbourhood has its own and also has a “marcha”, a group that sings and dances with bright clothes, each neighbourhood under a theme each year, running for the first prize. They parade in a large avenue, “Avenida da Liberdade”, in the night of the 12th. The “marchas” actually take all year to get prepared.
The streets are beautiful during this month, decorated with the typical flags and balloons.
Everywhere there is music, the smell of sardines, people just hanging outside on the streets. It is tradition to buy a “manjerico”, an aromatic plant (that with me always dies very quickly) with a paper flower and a little flag with a poem. The “manjerico”, along with the sardine, is one of the symbols of this party.
Besides the more popular side of this month, there are also lots of cool concerts, parties and cinema organized by the municipality and most of them are free during this period. http://www.festasdelisboa.com/
As the days pass until the night of the 12 you can feel the energy in the air… and than, on Santo António’s night, it blows! Euphoric (and very drunk) people flood the old narrow streets of the historical neighbourhoods like Alfama and it can take hours to walk just a few meters. Sometimes you can’t even move or decide where to go… just go with the flow! Lots of stalls are improvised in the streets to sell food and drinks and to me it is tradition to drink “sangria”, the best alternative to beer in this kind of events.
Santo António is said to join couples so if you are looking for a mate this is the time to light a candle and ask the saint for it. Actually, in this chaotic and unpredictable night, there are good shots it happens. :)