Liberation Day is a Portuguese public holiday celebrated every April 25th, commemorating the overthrow on that day, in 1974, of the dictatorial Estado Novo (New State) fascist government. The holiday is also sometimes called “Freedom Day” or “Liberty Day”.
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After nearly 50 years of autocratic rule, from 1937 until 1974, a popularly supported military coup removed dictator Marcello Caetano from power. It was a bloodless event, now known as the Carnation Revolution, and was largely triggered by the ongoing wars against rebelling colonies in Africa. Economic distress and lack of civil liberties also contributed to the unrest.
Antonio Spinola, a general who led the revolution, became head of an interim government, following the fall of Caetano. Soon, however, democratic, multi-party elections were held. Civil rights were restored, and numerous political prisoners were freed.
Mozambique, Angola, and other colonies gained their independence. By 1980, Madeira and Azores gained greater self-rule, while remaining part of Portugal. In 1976, a new constitution was introduced, which helped ensure the newfound freedoms of the Portuguese people would be long retained.
Most Portuguese celebrate Liberation Day with street parties, festive family meals, and feasting on traditional Portuguese foods. The street parties may also show patriotic films, like The Capitans of April and have comedic acts and live folk music performances.
Events in Algarve
Should you be in Portugal for Liberation Day, there will be some events all over the country. However, most of the grandest celebrations are held in the Algarve region, which is the extreme southern tip of the country. Places to go in Algarve include:
- Albufeira, where Liberation Day brings all-day entertainment and late-night fireworks displays. There are also year-round fairs and markets to explore and summer events that begin in June, such as theatrical performances, live music, and dances. If you stay as long as May 1st, which is the public holiday of May Day, there will be additional entertainment events and food stalls lining the streets.
- Alte, for the annual “Cultural Week” events that begin on Liberation Day and run till May Day. Activities are many and varied, including: mountain biking courses, painting and photography exhibits, dancing and theatrical performances, kid-specific events, music fests, traditional food sampling, and more. On May 1st, the climax of Cultural Week is a folklore fest with a traditional Portuguese wedding in the town of Fonte Grande.
- Lagos, in the western parts of the Algarve region. On Liberation Day, Lagos is awakened by a roar of cannons. At day’s end, the skies are lit up with a large fireworks display. Both events are meant to remind residents of the importance of the Carnation Revolution of 1974. There are also many year-round activities in Lagos. You can visit the Lagos Cultural Centre for evening musical performances in various genres, including classical, jazz, and Portuguese folk music (“fado”). You may also wish to stop by the Autodromo International race track in nearby Portimao, where motorsports events take place all year long.
Finally, there are many beautiful, sunny beaches along the Algarve coast, which anyone in the region, especially during the summer, will enjoy relaxing at.
Liberation Day is a celebration of the coming of freedom and the end of dictatorship in Portugal. There are many events to attend, especially in the Algarve region at Portugal’s southern tip.