June is the month of the popular saints, a period when the oldest and typical neighborhoods (such as Alfama, Madragoa or Mouraria) are decorated and everyone goes out at night to experience the festivities. They are celebrated a bit all over the country (and in other countries as well).
St. Anthony of Padua is celebrated (who is believed to be capable of “arranging” marriages to those who are single) on the 13th, St. John on the 24th and St. Peter on the 29th.
Every Portuguese region has its most popular saint.
In Lisbon, St. Anthony (he was born in the city) is the most important, St. John is the most significant in northern regions and St. Peter fulfills that role in fishing areas.
In the capital, the devotion to St. Anthony is so vast that even St. Vincent, the city’s patron saint, fell into complete oblivion.
In Lisbon, on the eve of June 13th, the popular marches are held, which may go back to the folk dances of the Mayas (liturgical chants in honor to the month of May).
These festivities were prohibited by the King, but the people started to hold a celebration on Maundy Thursday right after. Later on, the French initiated the habit of dancing their military marches, in which people marched by carrying torches in their hands, to celebrate the Storming of the Bastille (already in the month of June). This habit was then adopted by the Portuguese, who replaced torches with paper balloons and fireworks.
The marches, as they are currently known, were instituted as a mean propaganda during the Second Republic.
The first marching contest was held in 1932, which consisted of a parade with the inhabitants of these three neighborhoods (ranches, as they were called back then): Alto do Pina, Bairro Alto and Campo de Ourique (the latter was the winner). Two years later twelve neighborhoods entered the contest. The idea was promptly welcomed throughout the city.
In 1958, the St. Anthony Weddings were held for the first time, with 26 couples getting married in St Anthony Church (it is located on the site where it is thought that Anthony of Padua was born). The goal of this initiative was to give the couples with financial hardships the opportunity to marry.
After an interruption in the year of the Carnation Revolution, the City Council of Lisbon retrieved the initiative and, currently, it helps 16 couples to get married on June 12th.