Words: Cláudia Pinto Photos: Câmara Municipal de Santa Maria da Feira
Santa Maria da Feira is a city in the centre of Portugal. But the truth is that the city is, quite literally, more than just a city. It’s a stage of experiences. Every month, Santa Maria da Feira goes through a real metamorphosis and its traditional streets quickly become a new world; a path to a parallel universe. If in January the streets give way to a celebration of the Fogaceiras, at Easter they are the stage of the last steps of Christ, in May they are a celebration of art, in August they travel to the past and in December they turn children’s dreams into reality. Curious? Come with us and find out what awaits us in this city in 2023.
On January 20, we have the Fogaceiras Festival. It is the oldest and most symbolic religious festival in Santa Maria da Feira, and one of the largest religious processions in northern Portugal, and one that is also celebrated by the Portuguese communities in Brazil, Venezuela, and South Africa. The girls dressed in white with coloured bands around their waist who carry the fogaça (the sweet bread that is a gastronomic symbol of Santa Maria da Feira) on their heads are fulfilling the promise made by the people of Feira to the martyr St Sebastian in 1505 and are the icons of this centuries-old festival. Holy Week. More than just a religious event, the Holy Week has a strong cultural and social component, and includes an unprecedented programme combining music with Biblical re-enactments and guided tours of the city’s religious heritage. Holy Week focuses on the historical rigour and content differentiation that, year after year, transform the city into a location for the re-enactment of the last days in the life of Jesus Christ, entertaining residents and visitors alike.
The largest street arts festival in the country also takes place in Santa Maria da Feira: Imaginarius — International Street Theatre Festival. Domestic and international artists and companies, as well as emerging artists, associations and local artists who perform the most attractive, innovative and provocative street art, pass through the giant stage that the historic centre is transformed into at the end of May. Member of a wide network of partners from around the world, Imaginarius is an international benchmark in the circuit of such festivals.
Medieval Journey in the Land of Santa Maria. During August, the city stops and gives way to a parallel universe. The Medieval Journey is a passport to a unique journey through the experiences of the Middle Ages, providing visitors with an authentic history lesson and a uniquely memorable experience that is rooted in the historical accuracy of its entertainment and re-enactments. Considered the largest medieval re-enactment anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula, the Medieval Journey takes place over 12 consecutive days in the historic centre of Santa Maria da Feira.
Perlim — Christmas Theme Park. With Perlim, each December, the city promises to fulfil people’s dreams. Perlim is the largest and most original Christmas theme park in northern Portugal. Every December, the quality of its content and entertainment attracts thousands of visitors to Santa Maria da Feira. In a natural space of rare beauty — the Quinta do Castelo — where the Feira castle stands out, the twins Perlim and Pimpim await children and adults alike with open arms to celebrate Christmas. And throughout the year there is something you cannot miss: the Creative Gastronomy. In Santa Maria da Feira, gastronomy, art and creativity are intertwined. Inspired by local and seasonal products, gastronomic creations reveal the clear influence of the region that offers the wines and fish farming of the Douro in the north; the seaweed, salt, fish, cockles and crab from the Ria de Aveiro to the south; the quality and diversity of Atlantic fisheries to the west; and the high-quality arouquesa meat from the east.
This range of products and its proximity results in a typically rich and differentiating gastronomic offer. A member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (Creative City of Gastronomy) since November 2021, the region presents a genuine and irresistible Crossroads of Flavours.
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