Monday, 13 June 2011

There's something about Santo António...

The night of 12th June is party night in Lisbon. Thousands of people pile into the narrow streets of the city’s traditional neighbourhoods to celebrate its patron saint by sitting at makeshift tables eating sardines, salad and boiled potatoes at more than twice the usual price for such things, listening to cheesy Portuguese tunes and drinking beer from plastic cups. It’s smoky, noisy, stinky and absolutely wonderful.

As my partying days have been put on hold for a few years because of my kids my last few Santo António nights have been pretty tame. I remember a few - way back when? -when I only made it to bed after sunrise and in time to watch the street cleaners fire-hosing the night’s revelries down the city’s drains. Not so any more, but last night had me remembering earlier Santo António nights with my father and staying up way past a normal bedtime. I watched the sheer joy on my five year-old’s face whilst eating a fartura(think long donut with brown sugar and cinnamon) at almost 11 o’clock, my 17 month-old jigging to the sound of the cheesiest and rudest of all the Portuguese traditional songsters - Quim Barreiros - and went back to how lovely these nights felt when I was little, too.

There’s something very democratic about Santo António. Almost every kind of person and of every age is out on the streets and all are doing the same things. Eating, drinking, dancing, laughing. Kids are definitely part of the party and nobody is wondering why you haven’t put them to bed yet or why they’re on their third bowl of arroz doce (rice pudding). It was great fun and my kids will enjoy it next year, too.

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