Last Saturday (June 10th) we celebrated a national annual holiday in Portugal – it’s a very special day since it commemorates the death of Luís de Camões, one of Portugal’s greatest poets and writer of the sixteenth century national epic poem Os Lusíadas (published in 1572), about the role of the Portuguese during the Discoveries (Os Descobrimentos) enmeshed with stories of Portuguese history up until that point. Students in the 9th and 12th grades/forms (ages 14-15 and 17-18, respectively) are obliged to read and study the test for their Portuguese language curricula, which makes it a very important and respected book.
So, June 10th is known as [o] Dia de Camões (Camões’ day), but the holiday celebrates the country as a whole, the Portuguese language and Portuguese communities all over the world: its full name is [o] Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas.
Another important symbol of Portugal as an independent country is its national anthem – [o] hino nacional – ours is called A Portuguesa; the title is feminine because it’s implied that we’re talking about a song¹, since the word for song is feminine (a canção), therefore we get A [canção] portuguesa.
A clear inspiration for the title must have been La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, which is translated as A Marselhesa in Portuguese. Despite being written close to a century later, it shares with it more than just the title: our anthem’s chorus also mentions marching and it’s quite nationalistic and militaristic. It was written in 1890 (Lyrics by Henrique Lopes de Mendonça and Music by Alfredo Keil), as a Republican response to the failures of the Monarchy in dealing with the British Ultimatum of 1890, and it became the national anthem in 1911, with the first Republican Constitution (Portugal became a Republic in 1910).
For more info on the lyrics and their meaning, you can check Wikipedia’s article on the anthem here. Even though we learn the lyrics by heart in primary school, the anthem is used only on official functions; most people usually only hear it a few times a year, usually at the start of football matches! If you want to practice your anthem singing skills and become truly Portuguese, here’s one such example :)