Happy Portugal Day to all the Portuguese, at home and abroad! For all the non-Portuguese who are wondering what Portugal Day is, I’ve got you covered. It’s Friday, after all, so I expect you to use it as an excuse to celebrate extra hard tonight!
Unlike the better-known national holidays (4th of July, Bastille Day, Canada Day), Portugal Day (Dia de Portugal) is not based on a revolution or independence from another country. June 10th is the date when one of our most renowned writers, Luís de Camões, died in 1580. Camões is placed in the same category as Shakespeare and Homer by many literary experts. His master-piece, The Lusiads (Os Lusíadas), is the most important literary work of all time for Portugal. There’s really no comparison to it in the English language. The Lusiads, and the legend that is the author himself, is a source of national pride. Pride in Portuguese history and people was such that, before the revolution of 1974, Dia de Portugal was also known as Dia da Raça (Race Day), referring to the “Portuguese race”. Factoid of the day: Portugal Day is on Camões’ death date because nobody is sure of his exact birth date.
When my father was in Mozambique in 1974, he was asked to give a speech to the troops on Portugal Day soon after the revolution. In the excerpt from his speech below, he addresses why he believes Camões was the historical figure chosen for Portugal Day:
“Perhaps due to the fact that, more than anybody, Camões knew how to embody throughout his life and in his work, all the virtues of the Portuguese people: an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit and, simultaneously, an external sensibility to all that is human and beautiful.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Nowadays, Portugal Day is celebrated both in Portugal and abroad, especially in the UK, Canada and the United States (from California to Massachusetts) – wherever there are large Portuguese communities. Watch out for parties over the next few weeks wherever you are: if it’s a Portuguese party, there will be food. And lots of it!
So if you have never celebrated Portugal Day, don’t wait till next year! Head to your nearest Portuguese restaurant tonight, or grab a Super Bock beer, and start planning your next trip to Portugal.