Ah, the springtime. The days are bigger, the sun shines, the birds sing and the flowers bloom, exuding their intoxicating fragrances. This is one of the best times of the year to travel. As the temperatures rise you can feel a certain happiness and excitement in the air, after the dreary winter months. In Portugal, people are enjoying the outdoors a lot more, having fun in parks and gardens, doing sports, making picnics, or just lying in the sun. Some are already going to the beach!
Spring is so much appreciated, that the Portuguese celebrate it with events and popular festivals. The biggest, most famous ones are the Festa da Flor, on Madeira Island, and the Festa dos Tabuleiros, in the city of Tomar.
Come with us to celebrate spring in Portugal in a festival of flowers, colors, and joy by participating in these incredible, unique, and special events!
Festa da Flor in Funchal
Known as the “Garden of the Atlantic”, the island of Madeira has a rich and extraordinary flora, certainly due to its geographical location, which ensures a subtropical climate with mild temperatures throughout the year. Flowers of various species grow in the rugged landscapes of the island, and several gardens have been established to allow many species of flora to grow and develop in a protected environment. The Monte Palace Garden, the Palheiro Garden, and the Botanical Garden are three of the main gardens of the island that are open to visitors and provide picture-perfect sceneries.
To celebrate the intrinsic connection of Madeira with the world of flowers, Funchal, the main city of the island, becomes a dazzling stage filled with flowers to celebrate the Festa da Flor, or Flower Festival. Every year, in Spring, the city receives thousands of visitors for the event, which lasts several weeks. Funchal is adorned with flower carpets on its main streets that enable the decorations for the festival. The careful construction has undeniable beauty and detail, and deserves everyone’s admiration.
The activities of the marvelous festival begin with the Children’s Parade, where numerous children dressed in the flower theme parade to the City Square to create an amazing mural of flowers, called Wall of Hope. The following day it is time for the Flower Festival parade. This is one of the most iconic moments of the festival and one of the most emblematic and colorful of Madeira. More than a hundred participants of all ages parade in magnificent costumes and parade floats decorated to perfection, combining the beauty of multiple floral species with decorations full of creativity. The streets of Funchal are filled with music, color and delight, with the participants of the parade performing choreographies in a magical environment.
Along the weeks of the Flower Festival, the city provides other activities, such as the Flower Exhibition and the Flower Market, where visitors can admire and purchase the numerous floral species that exist in Madeira, and the Madeira Auto Parade, which combines the beauty of classic cars with the creativity of floral arrangements. Along these days the streets are lively with music, living flower statues and traditional Portuguese dance performances. This year, the Flower Festival begins on April 27th and ends on May 21st.
Festa dos Tabuleiros in Tomar
Unique in the world, the Festa dos Tabuleiros, or Festival of Trays, in Tomar, only takes place every four years. The next will be this year, from July 1st to 10th! This festival highlight is the parade of hundreds of trays carried on by women, supported by their male peers, along the decorated streets of Tomar. This event is prepared months in advance by the population that contributes with the preparation of thousands of paper flowers and ornaments that will decorate the boards and the streets of the town, turning it into a magical and unique atmosphere.
The origin of this festival is believed to be pagan and related to the harvest season, having assumed a religious character in the Middle Ages. The festival begins with the Children’s Tray Procession which takes place on the Sunday before the main event. This was a way to engage children in the festival atmosphere since their participation in the great procession is forbidden. The inauguration of the ornamented streets in the city center is in the middle of the week, and then, on Friday, takes place the Procession of the Butler, which symbolizes the entry into the city of the sacrificial oxen that, in the past, would be slaughtered for the distribution of meat. Formerly it was called the Procession of the Oxen of the Holy Spirit; today it is an important procession of carriages and horsemen, with oxen pairings at the head.
The trays are exhibited on the day before the procession. Each tray should be the height of the girl who will carry it and is made of 30 loaves, specially shaped, and evenly stuffed into 5 or 6 canes. The canes are attached to a wicker basket and topped by a crown with the Cross of Christ or the Dove of the Holy Spirit. The decoration is completed with paper flowers, greens, and ears of wheat. Some can weigh 15 kilos.
On Sunday takes place the Tray Procession, and is the event that attracts thousands of visitors to Tomar to participate in this astonishing spectacle. The decorated streets, the bedspreads placed on the windows, and the people throwing flowers over the hundreds of girls carrying their ornated trays in their heads is an unforgettable experience. The festival ends with the distribution of the “Pêza”, on the day after, maintaining the tradition of the distribution of meat, bread, and wine that were blessed the day before.
Let’s celebrate Spring!
Spring is a good enough reason to celebrate life. And what better way to do it than traveling abroad? But, if you need bigger reasons, then take the opportunity to participate in one of these Portuguese festivals that welcome spring in the most delightful way. Madeira Island has spring weather all year round, so visiting it during the Flower Festival is a special manner to take part in a beautiful and colorful party. The Festival of Trays in Tomar is a lifetime experience that attracts thousands of visitors, so it is equally unmissable.
If you got convinced, be sure to plan your visit in advance to ensure there is a spot available for you. Madeira is a touristic destination and has many accommodation options throughout the island. Tomar, however, is a small town in the center of Portugal, just an hour and a half from Lisbon, so you can visit it on a day trip from the capital or choose to stay in a nearby area. The region is beautiful, with magnificent monuments and amazing natural beauty – and TourTailors is here to help you plan a memorable trip to Portugal this spring!