What Do Cape Verdeans Celebrate? A Culture Guide

When you’re preparing for your trip to Cape Verde, or you’re interested in getting to know the Cape Verdeans better, you might wonder, what do Cape Verdeans celebrate?

The Cape Verdeans celebrate:
New Year’s: 31 Dec + 1 Jan
Democracy Day: 13 Jan
Heroes Day: 20 Jan
Carnival & Ash Wednesday: Feb/ Mar
Easter: Mar/ Ap
Labour Day: 1 May
Youth Day: 1 Jun
The Feast of Sao Joao: Jun 23
Independence Day: 5 Jul
Assumption Day: 15 Aug
National Day: 12 Sep
All Saints Day: 1 Nov
Christmas: 25 Dec

We’ve traveled through 6 of the nine inhabited islands, so we got a pretty good impression of the beautiful culture of Cape Verde. And created this culture guide with as much information about the Cape Verde celebrations as possible. So continue reading.

Note: Some say that New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cape Verde are some of the bests you can experience – They celebrate it twice. So make sure to check it out if you’re ever there!

Cape Verde Public Holidays, Events & Festivals

The vibrant island nation of Cape Verde is known for its colorful culture and rich traditions. From the bustling streets of its capital, Praia, to the tiny villages nestled in its mountainous terrain, every corner of the country is filled with life and character. And they love to celebrate with music and dance.

Being a predominantly Catholic country, Cape Verdeans mostly celebrate Catholic holidays. But the Cape Verdeans celebrate so much more, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s day, and several memorial days, and have many local festivities per island. They love to party and celebrate life. So here is an overview of all the different festivities the Cape Verdeans celebrate.

Cape Verde Public Holidays

DateHolidayWhat Is Celebrated?
1 JanNew Year’s DayNew Year is celebrated twice. 31 Dec & 1 Jan.
13 JanDemocracy DayIt became a national holiday after the first multi-party elections in ‘91
20 JanHeroes’ DayTo honor all the heroes of Cape Verde’s independence movement – but especially Amilcar Cabral.
1 MayLabour DayTo celebrate the accomplishments of its workers.
1 JunYouth DayTo create awareness against child abuse, youth addiction, violations of human rights, etc. 
5 JulIndependence DayCelebrating freedom and liberation from Portuguese rule since 1975.
15 AugAssumption DayCelebrating the Virgin Mary’s bodily ascent to heaven.
1 NovAll Saints’ DayTo honor Saints who have passed on to the afterlife. Cape Verdeans like to do processions that include drums, masks, costumes, and local dances.
25 DecChristmas DayCelebration of the birth of Jesus. 

National Celebrations

DateCelebrationWhat Is Celebrated?
Feb/ MarCarnival Colorful float processions and marvel at the flamboyant costumes. The biggest parade and celebration is in Mindelo, São Vicente Island.
Mar/ AprilEasterRe-enactments of Jesus’ resurrection in churches on Saturday night. Then fiestas in towns and cities, lasting until the early hours of Sunday morning.
23 JunThe Feast of Sao Joao – Saint JohnTraditional religious processions and spectacular bonfires.
12 SepNational DayCelebration of the Birth of Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (1924). Cape Verdeans hero, independence advocate, and warrior.

Local Events & Festivals

15 JanuarySantiago Municipal festival in Tarrafal, Santiago
17 JanuarySantiago Congregation in Cidade Velha, Santiago

Santo AntãoMunicipal festival in Ribeira Grande, Santo Antão
22 JanuarySão VicenteCity Festival in Mindelo, São Vicente
13 AprilSão NicolauSanto Antonio in Prequiça, São Nicolau
AprilSantiagoKriol Jazz Festival in Praia, Santiago
Last week of AprilFogoFesta de São Filipe, Fogo (biggest festival of Fogo with sporting events, traditional rituals & concerts)
3 MaySanta CruzPublic holiday in Santa Cruz
13 MaySantiago
Nossa Senhora de Fatima, district festival in Assomada, Santiago

Santo AntãoLocal festival in Ribeira do Paúl, Santo Antão
19 MaySantiagoMunicipal festival in the municipal capitals, city festival of Praia, Santiago
13 JuneSanto AntãoPaúl County Festival
14 JuneBoa VistaMunicipal Festival in Porto Novo (Santo Antão), São João Festival on Boa Vista
24 JuneBoa VistaBoa Vista Island Festiva

BravaAnniversary on Brava (“São João”)
4 JulyBoa VistaCommunity Festival on Boa Vista
Mid-JulySão Vicente“Kavala Fresk Festival” in Mindelo, São Vicente
1st weekend AugustSão NicolauMusic Festival in Tarrafal, São Nicolau
Early AugustSão VicenteSummer carnival in Mindelo, São Vicente
August, the first weekend after the full moonSão VicenteMusic festival in Baia das Gatas (São Vicente)
15 SeptemberSalIsland Festival on Sal
Mid-SeptemberSalFestival Santa Maria, Sal
SeptemberSão VicenteMindelo Theatrical Festival
25 November SantiagoAssomada and district Santa Catarina, festival in the honor of Santa Catarina
16 DecemberFogoSão Filipe district festival, Fogo

Does Cape Verde Have A Carnival?

Many people wonder if Cape Verdeans celebrate carnival. Well, let me give you the good news!

Cape Verde Islands have a carnival celebration similar to the Brazilian carnival. The Cape Verdeans celebrate carnival from Saturday until Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday with a colorful float parade, live music, flamboyant costumes, and dancing. The biggest parade and celebration is in Mindelo, São Vicente.

Anyone who’s ever been to Cape Verde’s Carnival will tell you it’s an unforgettable experience. And we can tell from experience. We celebrated carnival with the Cape Verdeans (see pictures below), and it was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will tell my grandkids someday.

The atmosphere is electric, and the energy of the crowd is infectious. And you can enjoy that now because we’ve made a travel guide video of our carnival experience in Mindelo, São Vicente. Take a look and enjoy our experience during the mix of Caribbean/ African/ Brazilian kind of carnival celebrations.

5 Most Popular Attractions at the Cape Verde Carnival

Here are five of the most popular attractions if you’re wondering what’s in store at the Cape Verde Carnival. 

  1. The Parade: We can’t discuss the Cape Verde Carnival without mentioning its iconic parade. This event is a colorful and vibrant display of music, costumes, dance, and fun, and it typically takes place in cities around the country. Expect to see locals dressed in traditional costumes, playing traditional instruments, and singing as they march along the streets.
  2. Street Parties: Cape Verde’s carnival is an all-night affair, and street parties are a major highlight of the celebrations. The streets come alive with drums and music as locals express their joy through dance and song. Visitors can join in the festivities – or enjoy watching from the sidelines!
  3. Fireworks: If you’re looking for a spectacle, make sure to check out the fireworks display at Cape Verde’s carnival. Fireworks are an integral part of the country’s celebrations, and you’ll find plenty of events that are illuminated by multi-colored explosions in the sky. 

    Note: Make sure you’re on the streets of Praia or Mindelo for the most breathtaking fireworks show!
  4. Music: Music is the lifeblood of Cape Verde’s carnival. You’ll discover locals in various traditional costumes playing drums and guitars, singing, and dancing everywhere you turn. From classic mornas and funaná music to modern Portuguese-African-inspired genres, you’ll find something to suit your taste.
  5. Food and Drinks: There’s no shortage of delicious food and drinks to sample at the carnival. Visitors can expect a variety of local dishes, such as Cachupa (a stew made with beans, corn, tomatoes, vegetables, fish, and/ or meat) or bolo de milho (corncake). You’ll also find plenty of street vendors selling snacks like grilled corn, roasted peanuts, and sweet banana fritters. 

    Tip: We recommend you try the Doce de Papaya (a sweet, jelly-like papaya jam) and the heavenly Fogo coffee pudding. Delicious! I wasn’t a big coffee fan until I tasted Fogo coffee.

As you can see, Cape Verdeans know how to party! Carnival in Cape Verde is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I highly recommend to everyone.

The parade is so beautiful, big and takes hours. It is like a Brazilian carnival, only nobody has discovered it yet. That is the best part. It is still a hidden gem amongst festivals worldwide. You can party with all the locals from the parade and take part in spontaneous processions and parties in the streets.

How Does Cape Verde Celebrate Independence Day?

For Cape Verdeans, Independence Day is a day of national pride and patriotism. It’s celebrated on the 5th of July each year, marking a special moment in the country’s history. But you might wonder how the Cape Verdeans celebrate their Independence Day?

On Independence Day, celebrations are held in every city and town across Cape Verde with parades, fireworks, music, dance, and speeches. To celebrate the nation’s rich culture, history, and freedom since 1975. Also, many people proudly wear clothing or accessories in the national colors of blue, white, and red.

As we expressed multiple times: Cape Verdeans love to party and celebrate life. And independence day is one of their most cherished and important celebration of the year. Having been a Portuguese colony for more than 500 years, the people of Cape Verde have a deep appreciation for their freedom. 

Cape Verde Independence Day Celebration Activities

These are some of the activities that take place during Independence Day in Cape Verde.

  • Speeches, performances, and other cultural events by local artists.
  • Parades and marches, with traditional folk music and dances.
  • Fireworks display over the cities and towns at night to honor Cape Verde’s freedom.
  • Local schools hold special parades and competitions throughout the day.
  • Special meals and gatherings with family and friends.

If you’re ever in Cape Verde on the 5th of July, don’t miss out on this amazing celebration. It’s a great opportunity to participate and appreciate the local culture and traditions. 

Fun Fact: When Cape Verde achieved full freedom from Portuguese rule in 1975, Aristedes Pereira (secretary-general of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde) and Pedro Pires (a military commander) were named the first president and prime minister of the nation, respectively. They both held these positions until 1991. Then the first-ever multi-party election took place, making Cape Verde a real democracy.

How Does Cape Verde Celebrate Christmas?

Christmas is a day of joy and celebration all over the world. Christmas trees are lit up, presents are exchanged, and lots of delicious food are enjoyed by almost everyone around the world. But did you know that Cape Verde also has its own unique way of celebrating Christmas?

Cape Verde celebrates Christmas day by enjoying extended dinners with family and friends, extending gifts, and sharing glasses of grogue (the local alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane). City squares are decked out in speakers, playing festive songs and traditional Christmas carols all day long.

Did you know that it’s quite common for Cape Verdeans to celebrate Christmas on the beach too? Some of the most popular destinations for beach-goers include Santa Maria on Sal Island and Praia de Santa Monica on Boa Vista. There, you’ll find people swimming in the waves, playing volleyball, and kitesurfing – all while celebrating Christmas!

All in all, Cape Verde offers an extraordinary experience when it comes to Christmas celebrations. If you plan on spending Christmas there, make sure to get your reservations in early! It can get quite packed during the holidays! You can read more about the best beaches in my article: Which Cape Verde Island Has The Best Beaches?

Does Cape Verde Celebrate Halloween?

For many people, Halloween means dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating. Kids love it – and adults, too! In fact, it’s a popular holiday in the U.S. and many other Catholic countries. But what about Cape Verde? Does Cape Verde celebrate Halloween?

Some Cape Verdeans celebrate Halloween. On popular islands like Sal, big hotels and casinos organize special Halloween nights for tourists. Also, the local population is slowly embracing Halloween by organizing Halloween parties for kids, where they dress up and go trick-or-treating door-to-door as a group.

Although the celebrations are not quite as grand as those in the U.S., Halloween is still slowly embraced by the people of Cape Verde. Their focus is more on the next day: All Saints day (1st of November), where Cape Verdeans honor the Saints who have passed on to the afterlife. They celebrate it with processions that include drums, masks, costumes, and local dances.

But when they celebrate Halloween, it looks similar to any other Halloween celebration around the world, as seen in the video below.

Fun Fact: Did you know that in Portuguese-speaking countries (such as Cape Verde), Halloween is also known as ‘Noite de Bruxas’ or Night of the Witches? One unique custom on this day is that people wear all black and design witch-themed decorations!

Does Cape Verde Have Any Music Festivals?

When you love music and like to plan a trip to Cape Verde, you might wonder, does Cape Verde have any music festivals?

Cape Verde hosts some of the best music festivals in the world, such as Baía das Gatas, Kriol Jazz Festival, Sal Music Festival, and Praia D’Cruz Music Festival. Every year, thousands of people flock to these events to experience the unique sounds of Cape Verdean music.

If there’s one thing that Cape Verdeans are passionate about, it’s music. This island nation is known for its unique blend of traditional rhythms and contemporary beats – all coming together to create a truly magical experience. From the vibrant sounds of Morna, Butuko, and Funana to the modern kizomba beats, music is an integral part of Cape Verdean culture and always has been.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular music festivals in the country:

Baía das Gatas – São Vicente Island

The Festival of Baía das Gatas is perhaps the most famous music festival in Cape Verde. Often nicknamed ‘Woodstock of Africa,’ this event is held every August at the beautiful Baía das Gatas beach. It’s a three-day festival that features some of the best Cape Verdean musicians and DJs.

Unlike other music festivals that charge an admission fee, Baía das Gatas is completely free!

Fun Fact: The festival was created by musician Vasco Martins and his friends in the year 1984. In fact, it’s said that this was the country’s first ever organized music festival!

Kriol Jazz Festival – Santiago Island

Every April in the capital of Praia, you can enjoy Jazz performances at different locations around the city all weekend long. This music festival started in 2009 to promote the beautiful and rich mix of Cape music heritage coming from Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe.

Festival de Santa Maria/ Sal Music Festival – Sal Island

Held every year on the 15th of September, the Festival de Santa Maria is a celebration of culture and music. This event honors the island’s patron saint Nossa Senhora das Dores and features performances from local and international singers, dancers, and musicians. It’s a great way to experience traditional Cape Verdean sounds in an intimate setting and enjoy street performances from artists all over the world!

Almost 20,000 people attend this festival every year, making it one of the most popular music festivals in Cape Verde.

Praia D’Cruz Music Festival – Boa Vista Island

The gorgeous Cruz beach in Sal-Rei comes alive every summer for the Praia D’Cruz Music Festival. This two-day event brings together some of the best local and international acts in dance music, hip-hop, and more. Whether you’re a rap, pop, or funk fan, there’s something for everyone here!

Apart from the music, there are also fun activities like beach sports, art exhibitions, and food stalls. The Praia D’Cruz festival is the perfect place to soak up some sun and enjoy a day of music, food, and fun with friends!

So, if you’re looking for an authentic Cape Verdean experience with some great music, then these music festivals are definitely worth checking out!

National Music of Cape Verde: Morna

Morna is the national music of Cape Verde. It is a mixture of jazz, Latin, African beats. Lyrics are most of the time in Creole, the spoken language among the locals in Cape Verde. 

The music was world widespread by Cesaria Evora, Cape Verde’s best-known singer. Unfortunately, she died in 2011 at the young age of 70. A few years before, in 2004, she got worldwide recognition for her music and won a Grammy. One of the most significant music awards in the world. 

I think the best way to experience traditional Cape Verde music is either by going to the small cafes in Mindelo, São Vicente. Or visit Cape Verdes Capital Praia, where you will find the renowned music venue, Quintal da Musica. 

Cape Verde Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Cape Verde?

100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $2 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from Safety Wing, one of the biggest names in travel insurance.

💧Can you drink tap water in Cape Verde?

No — It is generally recommended to drink bottled water in Cape Verde. While tap water is generally safe for showering and brushing teeth, it may not be suitable for drinking. Bottled water is readily available and affordable throughout the country. Or you can buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water.

🚗 Is it safe to rent a car in Cape Verde?

Yes — Renting a car in Cape Verde is one of the best ways to see the islands. I always rent with Rentalcars, which checks international and local Cape Verdean companies, so you get the best rates.

🏩 What’s the best way to book places to stay in Cape Verde?

For Cape Verde hotels, Booking.com is the best site. If you’re considering an (all-inclusive) resort, I recommend TUI since they have the best resorts on the islands.

🛫 What’s the best site to buy Cape Verde flights? 

For direct flights from the UK and Europe, I recommend TUI Airways. For finding alternative flights to Cape Verde, I recommend Skyscanner.

⛵️ Where to book the best tours in Cape Verde?

For the best tours in Cape Verde, I highly recommend booking your trips at Get Your Guide.

🛂 Do I need a visa for Cape Verde?

Likely Not — U.S. and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Cape Verde. Most travelers will receive a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival.

😃 Which is the safest island of Cape Verde?

Santo Antão – Although all islands are safe to travel to, Santo Antão is the safest island of Cape Verde. It is known for “Morabeza,” a Creole word meaning very friendly Cape Verdean hospitality. In the capital Praia on the island of Santiago, you must be somewhat careful but not need paranoia.

🗣 Do they speak English in Cape Verde?

Yes – Most staff speak English, and some are multi-lingual. The official language of Cape Verde is Portuguese. The mother tongue of virtually all Cape Verdeans is Cape Verdean Creole. (Read more)

⭐️ What is the best time to visit Cape Verde?

The best time to visit Cape Verde is between November and June. The average day temperature is around 24°C (75°F), the sea temperature is 25°C, and there is almost no rain. Perfect for a white-sandy beach holiday. However, Cape Verde has many attractions and activities throughout the year:

  • The best time to visit Cape Verde for Hiking: November & December
  • The best time to visit Cape Verde for Snorkeling and Diving: July – December
  • The best time to visit Cape Verde for Kitesurfing: December – March
  • The best time to visit Cape Verde for Whale Watching: March-May
  • The best time to visit Cape Verde for Turtle Spotting: Mid-July – October
  • The best time to visit Cape Verde for Carnival: February/ March

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the Cape Verde Carnival.

Q.1. When should I visit Cape Verde to attend the carnival?

A. The Carnival in Cape Verde usually takes place during the days leading up to Ash Wednesday (the start of Lent) in February/ March (differs per year). So, if you want to join in the festivities and experience the vibrant carnival atmosphere, then plan your visit around the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. 

Q.2. Where should I stay in Cape Verde during the carnival?

A. If you want to be in the midst of the carnival celebrations, we recommend staying in the Oasis Porto Grande hotel in Mindelo, Sao Vicente Island. This place has a fantastic view of the town’s mains square and is within walking distance of the main events. If you prefer something a bit more away from the crowds, then you can check out the Foya Branca Hotel, which is just 10 minutes away from the city center. 

Q.3. How long does the Cape Verde Carnival last?

A. The Carnival in Cape Verde typically lasts for three to four days. However, the festivities can last longer depending on the city and town. Make sure you plan your visit accordingly so that you don’t miss out on any of the fun! 

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