The mystery of Bath 29

EVERY YEAR on the night of August 29, groups of people assemble on the Algarve seafront, with towels and provisions, to celebrate the tradition of Banho 29 (Bath 29). Peasants travel from unknown locations to fulfil a night-time ritual of bathing in the sea, a ceremony that has been passed on through the generations. The Banho 29 festival takes place at three different locations in the Algarve: Odeceixe (Aljezur), Manta Rota (Vila Real de Santo António) and Lagos.

The origins of this tradition are confused. There are those who accredit it to a legend that the devil walks free on the day of August 29 and only at night-time is it safe to bathe in the sea. There are others who link the nocturnal bath to the ancient end of summer rites that used to take place in the southern parts of Europe.

Each year, new groups of people are appearing at the Banho 29 festival and joining in the celebrations. Bonfires, music and food are now commonplace with less of the traditional ceremony attached to the evening. The party culminates at midnight when the bravest enter the waters in front of the cheering crowds.

To keep this tradition going, a programme of entertainment and activities is being organised by Lagos Câmara for the locals and tourists, ensuring that people will continue to have their midnight swim at the end of every summer.