Queima das Fitas: The Celebration of University Students in Portugal

10 de April, 2023

Queima das Fitas: The Celebration of University Students in Portugal

Queima das Fitas is a party that takes place every year in several cities in Portugal and celebrates the end of the academic year for university students.
Reading: 6 min

The month of May is a time of intense movement in the university cities of Portugal. During this period, students and the community in general are counting down to one of the most anticipated events in the official calendar of festivities: the Queima das Fitas (burning of the ribbons). This academic tradition has already become a cultural phenomenon that attracts the attention even of those who have no relation with the student environment. In this article we will explore the reasons that make this university student celebration such a special and unique event in the Portuguese cultural scene.

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After all, what is Queima das Fitas?

Queima das Fitas is an academic festival that takes place annually in several university cities in Portugal, such as Coimbra, Porto, Lisbon, Covilhã, Braga, among others. The event is a celebration of the end of the academic year for university students, marking the end of exams and academic work. During the festival, students wear traditional academic costumes and parade through the streets in procession, accompanied by musical bands and entertainment groups.

The party usually lasts about a week and includes various activities, such as dinners, concerts, dances, serenades and other celebrations. Queima das Fitas is a tradition that dates back more than a century and remains one of the most important and emblematic events of academic culture in Portugal.

What is the origin of the term “Queima das Fitas”?

The origin of the term “Queima das Fitas” goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, in Coimbra, one of the most traditional university cities in Portugal. At that time, university students wore colored ribbons on their notebooks to identify the college and the course they were attending. At the end of the school year, these ribbons were removed and burned in a large bonfire, symbolizing the end of their studies and the beginning of their professional lives.

Some cities adopt another name for the same type of event. For example, in Aveiro it is called Enterro and in Braga it is called Enterro da Gata. Other cities simply use the expression “academic week”, as is the case in Covilhã.

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What happens during the burning of the ribbons?

University students in their last year, known as “finalists”, celebrate the end of the academic period, a kind of graduation.
The students in their first year, called “freshmen”, celebrate the end of this first academic year. They are no longer “freshmen” and can now wear the famous academic costume, which consists of a cape similar to the one worn by Harry Potter (see curiosity about this subject at the end of the text*).

Street Program

  • Serenade: an event that marks the beginning of the burning of the ribbons, usually at midnight, with the university tuna playing fados and traditional Portuguese music.
  • Parade: students parade through the city in decorated trucks, with music, drinks, and the use of the costume. The finalists parade with the academic costume, a top hat and a cane with the colors of the course, except for the freshmen. They cannot wear the full costume yet, only at the end of this ceremony.
  • Blessing of the folders: a religious ceremony that symbolizes the end of the senior’s academic life, also known as the blessing of the ribbons.
  • Shows at the queimódromo: an evening event with shows open to the public, stalls for selling drinks and collecting money. Tickets usually sell out fast (see schedule below).

Who can participate in the burning?

The burning of the ribbons is primarily an event for university students, but some activities are open to the community. Events exclusive to students include the procession and the blessing of the folders (they take place in the street and can be admired), while the serenade is open to everyone, but is a formal occasion. The concerts are open to anyone who buys a ticket, and are usually very popular .

Queima’s Musical Program

The musical shows that take place during the week of the burning usually attract a lot of people, even those who are no longer students. This is because they bring together national and even international attractions with tickets at very interesting prices, since it is a non-profit event for students. Tickets for the concerts usually go on sale about 45 days before the event, and the prices increase as the date of the party approaches. See below the 2023 schedule for the two most traditional queimas in Portugal.

Queima Porto 2023 Nights

In the city of Porto, the procession and blessing of the folders take place in downtown Porto and on Avenida dos Aliados. The musical concerts take place near the City Park, in the so-called queimódromo.

In 2023, the “Queima Nights” will take place from May 7 to 13, for the first time, on three stages. More than 50 artists related to music, dance, comedy, and art will be performing on the Academia Stage (the main stage), the Secondary Stage, with thematic nights, and the Culture Stage, with stand-up comedy. Confirmed so far are: Ornatos Violeta and Evandro (day 6), Slow J, T-Rex and Papillon (day 7), Chico da Tina (day 8), Quim Barreiros and Rosinha (day 9), Wet Bed Gang, Dillaz and X-Tense (day 10), Karetus and Mc Pedrinho (day 11). Days 12 and 13 have attractions yet to be announced.

Coimbra Burning of the Ribbons

The celebration begins with the Monumental Serenade in the Old Cathedral, followed by the Gala Ball with a different theme each year. The most anticipated moment is the Cortejo, which takes place in the streets and is free for everyone. The Nights in the Park are dedicated to shows with national and international artists. The Tea Dance marks the end of the party, when the decorations from the Gala Ball are destroyed. The Bohemians’ Supper is a meeting between graduates and newcomers, while the Academic Soiree features theater and music by students from the Coimbra Academic Association.

In 2023 paid musical programming takes place from May 19 to 26 at the Song Square. The attractions confirmed so far are: Linda Martini (day 19), Os Quatro e Meia (day 20), TRex (day 21), Slow J (day 22), Gustavo Mioto (day 24), Kevinho (day 26).

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Why go to the burn?

Queima das Fitas is a unique and very lively cultural event in Portugal. The energy of the students who parade and celebrate in the streets during the event is something contagious that is worth checking out. It is also an opportunity to learn more about Portuguese culture, make new friends, and have a lot of fun. Make a note of the dates in your calendar and be sure to participate!

*But what about the Harry Potter cover?

Harry Potter writer J.K. Rowling lived in Porto for about two years. She moved to Portugal after the death of her mother, Anne, in 1991, who crowded for many years with a degenerative disease, multiple sclerosis. Anne Volant’s death “left a shadow of sadness” on the author, something that influenced her in creating the story of Harry Potter, a young wizard who lost his parents as a baby. In Porto, she taught English, married a Portuguese journalist (Jorge Arantes) in 1992, and had her daughter Jessica in 1993. It was circulating around the city that she absorbed many inspirations. One of them was the academic costume of the students at the University of Porto. The cape + cassock is practically the same used by Hogwarts students. No, it is not just a coincidence…

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*Silvia Resende is a journalist at Atlantic Bridge. From Bahia, she arrived in Portugal in 2015 to build a new life together with her family. She has a degree and a master’s degree in Communication Sciences from the University of Porto. She has worked as a TV presenter, reporter, event producer, public relations and tour guide in Porto. She loves to travel and to discover the cultural and natural heritage of each place she goes to. She was a student at the University of Porto and followed Queima das Fitas very closely.



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