Thinking of shopping on a Sunday? Not in Portugal. It all happens on Saturday morning, for clothes and food alike. Open air markets attract masses of people and shopping streets fill up. Halfway Saturday afternoon, most shops close their doors only to re-open them on Monday. If it wasn`t for the restaurants and supermarkets, the streets of the city would be empty on Sundays. How do people keep themselves busy when everything is shut?
Traditional Sundays are family events. From noon until about 2 o`clock, families reunite around the lunch table. They enjoy each other`s company, discuss whatever happened in the preceding week ? especially football results ? and enjoy the food that is typically prepared by mother or grandmother.
`Portuguese Sundays are used for relaxation rather than sports`
Before, during, after
Religious families go to church before lunch, but the younger generation uses the first half of the day to recover from the Saturday night partying. Church is not too popular among the youth. Even though they may attend church every now and then, they may skip a Sunday or two or three or more between two services.
The Sunday lunch usually brings together parents, children and, if applicable, their partners and children. Assemblies of the entire family - including uncles, aunts and cousins ? are kept for Christmas and Easter.
The meal that gets served has a consistency that is similar to a week day dinner. With the difference that a little more affection is added to the recipe on a Sunday. A dish that is common in the North of Portugal is Cori?o ? Portuguesa, containing lots of different types of meat and boiled potatoes. Red wine will accompany the meal, a small cup containing two teaspoons of coffee will complete the process.
After lunch, the family leave on a car trip around to a nearby park or to the beach. It is not exceptional for families to have small houses near the beach. If nearby, getting to these places and back make up a nice excursion to complete the weekend.
Out of all age groups, the 15 to 25 year-olds are the most likely to escape the traditional Sunday program. Nevertheless, it is very unusual that the Sunday be spent on something other than socializing. Gil (24) is enjoying the Sunday autumn sun with his former house mates. He tells me how sport is not a typical Sunday activity: `People are busy until late on all weekdays and have things to do on Sundays too. If people practice sports at all, it will be on Saturday, preferably in the morning. Football is by far the most favourite sport, but some play tennis, go cycling or swimming.`
Rui (23) does no sport at all. He uses both Saturday and Sunday to recover from student parties, but he will be happy to do such in the company of others. Rita (21) studies psychology. She lives with her parents but will not attend this Sunday`s lunch. She is traveling to Lisbon to meet a friend. Pedro (21) is also heading for the Portuguese capital. He will be visiting his girlfriend who is in hospital. She got injured by an explosion in the chemical lab in her university and is now recovering.
The quiet Sunday may be an unpleasant surprise to visitors from other countries, who have got used to 24/7 commercial entertainment. The Portuguese have, so far, been able to escape that pattern. They simply think social duties are more important than financial compensation. Some shops do open, but if you really need something on Sunday, be prepared to travel a long way for it.
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