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Portugal Day – why June 10th is a public holiday

portugalPortugal Day, or more properly ‘Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas,’ is a national holiday celebrated annually on June 10th.

Although officially observed only in Portugal, Portuguese citizens and emigrants throughout the world celebrate the day as it commemorates the death of national literary icon Luís de Camões in 1580.

Camões wrote Os Lusíadas, Portugal’s national epic poem celebrating Portuguese history and achievements. (HERE)

The poem focuses mainly on the C15th Portuguese explorations which brought fame and more importantly, riches into the country. The poem is considered one of the most important works in Portuguese literature and became a symbol for the great feats of the Portuguese Empire.

Camões was an adventurer who lost one eye fighting in Ceuta, wrote the poem while travelling, and survived a shipwreck in Cochinchina, present-day Vietnam. According to folklore Camões saved his epic poem by swimming with one arm while keeping the other arm above water. Since his date of birth is unknown, the date of his death is celebrated as Portugal’s National Day.

Although Camões became a symbol for Portugal nationalism, his death coincided with the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580 that resulted in Philip II of Spain claiming the Portuguese throne. Portugal was then ruled by three generations of Spanish kings during the Iberian Union (1580–1640).

On December 1st 1640, the country regained its independence by expelling the Spanish during the Portuguese Restoration War and making João of Bragança, King João  IV of Portugal.

During Salazar’s authoritarian Estado Novo regime in the 20th century, Camões was used as a symbol for the Portuguese nation.

Portugal Day celebrations were officially suspended during the Carnation Revolution in 1974. Celebrations resumed after 1974 and were expanded to include the Comunidades Portuguesas, Portuguese emigrants and their descendants living in communities all around the world, 3.75 million of them.

Portugal’s embassies, with the support of the Camões Institute, ensure the day is celebrated with a wide range of musical events across the world.

In Europe, America and Africa there are festivities, exhibitions and concerts as Portugal’s emigrants and their children celebrate the day.

Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe. With Portugal’s 10.6 million population, the total worldwide figure for Portuguese speaking populations is 259 million.