Festas do Minho: Party time in Northern Portugal

Festas do Minho: Party time in Northern Portugal

In Portugal's northwestern-most province, the Minho, the green wine flows and the party lasts all week during the summer festivities that date back a long, long time.

minho vinho verde bicycle tour in northern portugal


August, in Portugal, is the traditional month for saints' festivals. In Portugal's northwestern-most province, the Minho, this is especially true. One of Portugal's most beautiful areas, it is incredibly green and lush, over-run with hydrangeas and rambling roses.

The little granite villages are bordered with vineyards. Tall granite poles support the climbing vines. The vines are responsible for the delicious fizzy red or white wine, known as green wine/ vinho verde , drunk by all the locals since Roman times.

On the weekend closest to Aug 20th, the old town of Viana Do Castelo, sitting regally on the banks of the lovely Lima River, plays host to the medieval festival of Nossa Senhora do Agonia / Our Lady of the Sorrows. A misnomer for such a colorful, happy festa!

On the first day, there is a blessing of the fishing fleet with the streets near the docks decorated with colored sawdust and flowers by the fishermen's wives . A procession from the church carries the image of Our Lady of Sorrows to the docks to ensure the fisherman have a bountiful safe year.

Most local ladies wear their regional dresses of bright red embroidered skirts with flowered scarves on their heads or their wedding dresses of black velvet trimmed with jet beading and lace - both weighed down by the family's fortune in gold jewelry!

On the Saturday, there are parades of massive floats representing the different villages in the area, girls showing off their dresses, fair clowns wearing giant papier-mache heads and, of course, ranks of drummers beating enormous drums!

All of this is backed up with the most prodigious agricultural fair you've ever seen, selling every thing you could possibly imagine. Anyone want a barrosã ox? Or a flax spindle? Or a hand-held plow? Most business is done by the farmers in the time honored tradition of haggling and drinking - until a satisfactory price is reached.

In the evening, there is wonderful grilled fish and chicken washed down with vinho verde. And, later, LOTS of dancing finished off with an exuberant display of fireworks. Good food, wine and entertainment. Viva Portugal!

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